The California judge who gave former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner a six-month slap on the wrist for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman was cleared of any wrongdoing by a judicial panel Monday.
The California Commission on Judicial Performance, an independent agency that is responsible for investigating claims of misconduct, released a 12-page report Monday, stating that Judge Aaron Persky’s sentencing was within “the parameters set by law and was therefore within the judge’s discretion,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“The commission has concluded that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline,” the panel said.
Turner, 21, was convicted of three felony counts in March, including assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration of an unconscious person, and faced up to 14 years in prison.
Judge Persky drew strong criticism when he gave Turner a slap on the wrist—six months in Santa Clara County Jail and three years of probation. Turner was released from jail after serving just three months. Persky said he gave Turner that sentence because he thought that prison would have “a severe impact on him.”
Public outcry after the sentencing was immediate, and a recall effort was put in motion to remove Persky from the bench. The case also prompted California lawmakers to expand the definition of rape and pass new mandatory sentencing laws for convicted rapists.
The commission received thousands of complaints and petitions charging Persky with gender, race and economic bias, and allegations that a nonwhite, underprivileged defendant would have received a harsher sentence, the Times reports. Critics also said that because Persky played lacrosse at Stanford and graduated from there, he should have been disqualified from the case.
The commission said that Persky’s sentencing was in line with a probation officer’s recommendation and that his ties to Stanford were “insufficient to require disclosure or disqualification.”
The commission’s ruling has not swayed those who are calling for Persky’s removal from the bench.
Stanford Law professor Michelle Dauber, who is one among many calling for Persky’s removal, said in a statement, “This report simply highlights what we have been saying from the beginning, which is that a petition for judicial discipline was not the correct venue to address these concerns, and the recall is the only realistic way to remove Judge Persky from office.”
Dauber continued, “We believe that the record is completely clear that Judge Persky has a long record of failing to take violence against women seriously, and we will demonstrate when we launch the campaign early next year.”
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Persky has formed a committee to fight efforts to remove him from the bench, and his supporters, who include lawyers who have cases before him and California law school professors, say the recall effort is an overreaction that threatens judicial independence.
Former San Jose State political science professor Larry Gerston told the Mercury News that the commission’s report is “absolutely terrific” for the judge because he now has a “clean bill of health” from the panel.
“But if the recall movement taps into the sense that there is a systemic problem with lackadaisical treatment of sex predators,” Gerston said, “then people may say, ‘We have to make an example of Judge Persky.’”