After Controversial Stanford Swimmer Sentencing, Judge Removed from New Sexual Assault Case as Prosecutors Allege Bias
The judge has faced intense backlash since his Persky sentencing
Judge Aaron Persky, who made the controversial decision to sentence former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party in January 2015, was removed from a new sexual assault case on Tuesday after the prosecutor filed a motion alleging bias.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office confirmed Judge Persky’s removal to PEOPLE, saying attorneys used a procedure known as 170.6 to file the peremptory challenge.
It prevents him from presiding over a preliminary hearing for a case involving a Cecil Webb, a 54-year-old male surgical nurse who allegedly touched the breasts and genitals of a female patient who was under anesthesia.
In their motion to remove Persky, prosecutors cited Persky’s recent dismissal of a case against a woman charged with possession of stolen property.
“We are disappointed and puzzled at Judge Persky’s unusual decision to unilaterally dismiss a case before the jury could deliberate,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement obtained by the San Jose Mercury News. “After this and the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing.”
The stolen property case was Persky’s first trial since the Turner case. It began with its own controversy, after 10 potential jurors in Santa Clara County refused to serve in his courtroom citing objections about his leniency.
According to the Mercury News, Rosen added that the decision to have Persky removed was “a rare and carefully considered step for our office.”
“In the future, we will evaluate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice,” he added.
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Persky has faced intense backlash since his ruling in the Turner case. While prosecutors had asked Turner be sentenced to six years in prison, he was given six months, with Persky saying a longer sentence would have a “severe impact on him.”
Sgt. James Jensen of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office told PEOPLE Turner will most likely be released on September 2, adding “we as the sheriff’s office can lengthen his sentence if there are some behavioral issues up to six months.”
More than 1.2 million people have asked for Judge Persky’s removal after the decision, through a Change.org petition.
“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” the petition reads. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”
Last week, Persky was given a new six-year judicial term.