After more than a million people signed a petition to remove a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge from the bench for sentencing a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of rape to just six months in jail, activists handed over the petition along with a formal complaint to the California Commission on Judicial Performance Friday in San Francisco.
About 100 activists, many belonging to the national women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, rallied outside of the commission’s office, located 455 Golden Gate Ave. at around noon.
The petition is calling for the removal of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who earlier this month sentenced 20-year-old Brock Turner to six months in jail after he was convicted of felony sexual assault charges earlier this year.
The sentence has drawn outrage and international attention, in part due to a letter written by the victim which was widely circulated online, as well as another letter written by Turner’s father in which he asks Persky for leniency – describing the assault as “20 minutes of action.”
When activists tried to enter the commission’s office today, the commission would not receive boxes filled with signatures, and activists ended up leaving them on a ledge in the hallway outside the office, according to Melissa Bryne of UltraViolet.
A spokeswoman for the commission said her office did receive the petition and a formal complaint to remove Persky from bench.
The commission receives about 1,200 complaints a year alleging judicial misconduct, spokeswoman Victoria Henley said.
Any individual may file a complaint, according to Henley.
The commission, an appointed body, meets every six to eight weeks to review the complaints. The commission then tries to review each individual complaint within 60 days to determine whether misconduct occurred.
If misconduct is found, the office would begin an investigation, Henley said.
According to Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber, the six-month sentence by Persky sends the message to sexual assault survivors that:
“You’re on your own. And to potential perpetrators it says don’t worry, we have your back. … Judge Persky treated the survivor as if she didn’t matter. As if it was the perpetrator’s pain, as if it was the perpetrator’s fear, as if it was his injuries, his reputation that mattered, and we’re here to say that enough is enough.”
Although the petition sent to the commission Friday seeks to remove Persky from the bench, activists are preparing another petition to present to Santa Clara County Voters to recall Persky.
Persky was recently reelected without opposition for another six-year term on the bench during Tuesday’s election.
“The petition that matters is the official petition and the signatures of the voters collected by Santa Clara County. There’s a long road ahead of us and in order to run a successful campaign to recall Judge Persky, it will take grit, it will take determination, it will take hard work, and it will take all of your support.”
The recall petition seeks to allow the county’s voters to “replace him with a judge that understands sexual violence and understands violence against women,” according to Dauber.
In addition to the petitions, two state assemblywomen are calling for Persky to resign. Assemblywomen Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, and Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, both called for the judge’s resignation earlier this week.
Eggman said in a statement:
“Six months in the county lockup is a sentence so lenient it sends a clear message that rape will not be treated seriously.”
Garcia said in a statement:
“Rape is a cancer that impacts the lives of survivors daily and for a lifetime. It is disappointing; the judicial process put this victim on trial and the judge has reduced his sentence to no more than an inconvenience.”
The assault took place in the early morning hours of Jan. 18. Two passersby on bikes witnessed Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious and partially clothed woman on school grounds, next a dumpster.
Turner and the victim had come from a fraternity party on campus.
The two passersby chased after Turner and pinned him down, until authorities arrived at the scene.
The woman, who was reportedly not a Stanford student, was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, where she said she had no recollection of the assault.
Turner told investigators that he and the victim had both drank heavily while at the party, and that he thought the sex was consensual.
Turner was placed into custody on June 2 and he is being held at the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose. Although Turner was sentenced to six months, county jail records show he is expected to be released three months early, on Sept. 2.
A protest has been planned by UltraViolet on Sunday at Stanford, during graduation and commencement ceremonies, the group announced today.
UltraViolet has commissioned three bicycle billboards to accompany student protesters denouncing Persky’s decision. Additionally, the group will also have a plane fly over the school with a banner reading “Protect Survivors. Not Rapists. #PerskyMustGo,” ahead of the ceremonies, according to the group.