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Aaron Persky, the California judge who drew national attention in 2016 when he sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, was recalled on Tuesday.  He is the first judge recalled in California in more than 80 years.  Almost 60% of voters were in favor of removing Judge Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he had served since 2003. Prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson was elected to replace him.

The recall stemmed from the case of Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting a woman near a dumpster in 2015 after she had blacked out from drinking. In 2016, a jury found the 20 year old Stanford swimmer guilty on all three felony charges against him: sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person, and intent to commit rape.

The maximum sentence in Turner’s case was 14 years but Judge Persky had sentenced him to six months.  During sentencing Judge Persky said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him.  His decision along with the fact that he did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim, outraged victims’ advocates nationally.

Turner served only three months before being released in September 2016.   He also received three years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender.  Stanford forced him to withdraw and barred him from campus.  His victim, known publicly only as Emily Doe, described her suffering in a more than 7,000-word statement that went viral soon after it was published.  The sentence and resulting backlash, prompted California lawmakers to change the law. Within four months, they enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases and closed a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist.

Talk of a recall campaign began immediately after he handed down his sentence.   The recall campaign was led by Ms. Dauber, whose daughter is friends with Emily Doe — had collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.  In a statement, Judge Persky said he had a legal and professional responsibility to consider alternatives to imprisonment for first-time offenders.  LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and a spokeswoman for Judge Persky, called the recall an attack on judicial independence and said it had “encouraged people to think of judges as no more than politicians.”

Among the effort’s most prominent backers were Anita Hill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  Ms. Dauber said the results “demonstrated that violence against women is a voting issue,” and that “if candidates want the votes of progressive Democratic women, they will have to take this issue seriously.”

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