Thursday, May 31, 2018

Recall Judge Aaron Persky: This is How Democracy Works

On June 5th, voters in Santa Clara County, California will decide whether to recall Judge Aaron Persky. I recently moved out of the area, and I'm so disappointed that I cannot vote on this issue. That's why I hope I can count on you to 
vote YES in favor of the recall

The Letter
I first heard about the Brock Turner case in June 2016, the day after his sentencing, when I read "Emily Doe's" letter. The letter in which she describes – in court –  the profound impact the assault had on her. The letter many victims of rape and sexual assault wish they could write. The letter I wish I had written many years ago. It was her letter that moved me to tears and to join the campaign to Recall Judge Aaron Persky.

The Case
Brock Turner, a Stanford student and golden child of the swim team, dragged “Emily Doe" behind a dumpster and sexually assaulted her. His actions were caught on video by a passerby who stopped Turner mid-assault. The jury found Turner guilty of three felony sex offenses, which carry a minimum of two years in prison, and the prosecution asked for six years due to the heinousness of his crimes.

However, Judge Persky was more concerned about the impact a harsh sentence would have on the future a young, white, male athlete who sexually assaulted a woman, rather than the life-long impact his actions will have on the woman he assaulted. Persky sentenced Turner to only six months in jail - of which Turner only served three - plus three years’ probation, for which Turner should not have been eligible.

That's it. Three months in jail for dragging a woman behind a dumpster and violating her. Based on the leniency of the sentence, Persky must think rape isn't really a big deal. (You can find more details on the case and subsequent outrage here.)

Recall Perksy. Recall Rape Culture. 
When a judge slaps a rapist on the wrist, he's telling society that crimes against women are not to be taken seriously. Persky is a catalyst of rape culture. We need to recall Perksy for all of the victims who are too afraid to speak up and for whom justice was not served. For all the men who still think harassing, beating, assaulting, and raping women is some kind of joke. And for Emily Doe.

And for all of you super Blue Wave supporters, Persky actually hired Trump’s campaign manager to help him fight the recall. So…. there’s that to light your fire. 

But Turner didn't really commit rape, right?
Technically, no. Turner assaulted Emily Doe with his fingers. Since he didn't use his penis, he was found guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault, one of which was the intent to commit rape. However, I highly doubt that Emily Doe - or any woman who has had someone else's uninvited body parts shoved up her vagina - cares about the technical definition of rape. The effects are the same.

Yes, Emily Doe was drunk and at a frat party. Everyone is drunk at frat parties, but no one is "asking" to get raped or assaulted. Yes, Turner was drunk, too, but he is still responsible for his actions. He had enough cognitive ability to drag her behind a dumpster to try and hide what he was doing. Even while intoxicated, he knew what he was doing was wrong. 

Rape is rape no matter who commits it. Even if the rapist is a star athlete. Even if the girl is drunk. Even if the rapist is drunk. There is no justification. No human ever asks for this. Ever. 

But should a judge lose his job over just one case?
The Turner case is not an isolated incident, and Judge Persky has a long history of giving lenient sentences to men found guilty of sex crimes and violence against women, especially if the defendant is an athlete. 
In 2015, Perksy allowed a college football player, who was found guilty of felony domestic violence, to leave the state to play football with no probation or monitoring after he brutally beat and choked his girlfriend, and then pushed her out of a moving vehicle. Consequently, he was arrested again in Washington for domestic violence against another victim. Persky’s actions allowed this to happen. In 2016, Persky again customized a college football player's sentence around his game schedule after he was found guilty of domestic violence. Even though Persky only sentenced him to "weekend jail," the man still failed to show up, and Persky never held him accountable. Eventually, the DA had to step in, and a different judge held the convicted athlete accountable to Persky's ridiculously lenient sentence of weekend jail.  Also in 2015, Persky sentenced a man found guilty of possessing a large amount of child pornography (including infant pornography) to only four days in jail. That's it. Four days for enjoying watching children and a baby being raped. That's disgusting. Please also note that those four days were not a plea bargain; Persky just offered it up as a fitting punishment.  In the 2011 civil trial of several De Anza College college baseball players who allegedly gang-raped an unconscious 17-year-old girl, Persky allowed the jury to consider photographs of the victim wearing revealing outfits, as if the clothes she wore justified the actions of the men raping her, and the photographs the jury saw were taken over a year after her rape. Persky also would not allow the jury to hear a second victim's testimony. As a result, none of the defendants were found at fault, and rape culture and victim-blaming prevailed.

These are just a few examples of Persky's history of failing to protect women and children from predators. Read even more here. And if you’re wondering if Persky feels remorse for his poor judgment in light of the recent #metoo movement, you can hear him say in own words “absolutely not.”

But we can't just go around recalling judges, can we?
Yes, we can! County judges in California are elected and serve six-year terms. Persky was re-elected in 2016 simply because he ran unopposed, so we didn't have a choice. He would be up for re-election again in 2022 as part of the normal process. However, because of the all-volunteer recall team that worked tirelessly for months to collect almost 100,000 signatures from registered voters in Santa Clara County, the recall is now on the ballot in 2018.

The people were horrified by Persky's decisions. The people acted. Now the people will vote him off the bench four years early so he doesn't do any more harm. This is how democracy works.

Shouldn't we just have mandatory sentencing then?
Mandatory sentencing is a whole separate issue, however, that will not stop anti-recall supporters from bringing it up. They will try to tell you that since we don't have mandatory sentencing in such cases, whatever the judge says goes and we have to accept it. No, no, NO. I argue that in the absence of mandatory sentencing, it's even more important to have judges who exercise good judgment.

Persky clearly cannot exercise good judgment in cases regarding sexual assault and violence against women and children, which means the women and children of Santa Clara County are not safe with him on the bench. So we must vote yes to recall him. This is how democracy works.

Didn't Persky just follow protocol?
Anti-recall supporters, who are mostly lawyers, judges, and Stanford University affiliates, will tell you that Persky was just following the probation department’s recommendation for a moderate jail term, but this is to be expected from people who will benefit from the recall being voted down.

What they don’t tell you is that Persky ignored the prosecution’s recommendation of six years in prison. Persky ignored the victim as she read her letter to Turner in court. Persky failed to exercise good judgment. Persky refuses to use his power to keep women and children safe.

Think about it. If a person is terrible at their job and causes harm to others, that person should be fired from their job, right? Being a judge is an enormous responsibility, and any judge should be held to the same - if not higher - standards as any other employed person. California county judges are not royalty. They are employed and elected by the people. As their employer, we expect judges to exercise good judgment. It's literally in the job title. If a judge fails to exercise good judgment, he should be recalled.  This is how democracy works.

Is recalling Persky a threat to judicial independence?
Definitely not. Judicial independence is key to our system of checks and balances and a crucial function of democracy. All the more reason to have impartial, unbiased judges on the bench whom we trust to uphold the values of a society in which we can all feel safe.  

In January 2018, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Larry Nassar, the former U.S. Olympic gymnastics doctor, to 175 years in prison for molesting and assaulting 160+ young female athletes entrusted to his care. "I signed your death warrant," she told him. While this extreme sentence has received some backlash, Aquilina is a shining example of a judge using her power to create the changes she wants to see in this country. She could have given Nassar a weak sentence and offered a thousand excuses for it, as Persky has done, but instead, she used her power for good. Read her full remarks here.

Judge Aquilina's decision is an example of judicial independence at work and why we need it. Recalling Persky does not threaten judicial independence, as his supporters will have you believe. Rather, Persky is a threat to judicial independence, blindly following a weak recommendation (which is not "rule of law" as he claims) to avoid accountability for his actions. I would prefer a judge like Aquilina who takes recommendations into account, then thinks for herself, looks inside her own heart, and then passes down a sentence that makes our society better and safer. 

If we want to end rape culture, we need to show our elected officials the kind of society we want to live in. There are far too many Perskys in this country, in all branches of government, and we need to systematically recall and vote them out in June and November 2018.  This is how democracy works.

So if we recall Persky, who will replace him?
Persky is not running unopposed this time! Right below your YES vote to recall Persky, you will have the opportunity to select another judge on the same ballot.

More information
Please visit for more details on Persky's previous cases, the error-ridden “Persky Report, as well as the long list of endorsers of the recall.

Please leave a comment below or contact the Recall Persky Campaign directly if you have questions. Please keep all questions and comments respectful and kind. While we may not agree on every issue, we are all humans who want to leave the best world possible for future humans.

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Our work isn’t done after June 5th
There are too many Perskys in this world. Vote. Them. Out.