A California judge who sentenced former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexual assault has been booted off an unrelated sexual assault case.
Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara Superior Court sparked national outrage this month over his sentence for Turner, who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman.
The fallout continued Tuesday when the district attorney removed him from a different sexual assault case.
“After … the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient,” said Jeff Rosen, the Santa Clara district attorney.
No more information was immediately available on the latest case.
A prosecutor and the defense can opt to request another judge if they see fit. In such instances, a case is reassigned to a different judge.
Persky’s critics are not limited to the courtroom.
Since his ruling, a petition to remove him from the bench has attracted more than 1 million supporters.
Rosen said his office took the unusual measure to remove the judge from the case to ensure justice is served.
“This is a rare and carefully considered step for our office,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Turner was convicted in March of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.
Though he could have received a maximum of 14 years in prison, prosecutors asked the judge to give Turner six years behind bars.
In California, judges are allowed wide discretion in sentencing.
On June 2, Persky chose to sentence Turner to six months in jail, followed by probation. Under the terms of his conviction, Turner must also register as a sex offender.
On January 18, 2015, law enforcement officers responded to a report of an unconscious female near a fraternity house, according to a sentencing memo.
At about 1 a.m. they found the victim on the ground in a fetal position behind a garbage bin. She was breathing but unresponsive. Her dress was pulled up to her waist. Her underwear was on the ground; her hair disheveled and covered with pine needles.
About 25 yards away, two passers-by had pinned down and restrained Turner.
“We found him on top of the girl!” one of the men said. Turner smelled of alcohol as he was handcuffed.
Letters written by the victim and the attacker’s father added to the fury over Turner’s sentencing.
In a 12-page victim impact statement addressed to Turner, the woman gave a harrowing description of her ordeal. The letter was widely shared online.
The victim implored Persky not to be lenient.
“My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured,” she wrote.
She told of going to a fraternity party near Stanford and drinking and then not knowing what happened to her between the time of the party and being conscious in a hospital with pine needles in her hair. She described the traumatic and humiliating experience of enduring an hours-long forensic exam for sexual assault
“I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.
“After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”
Before sentencing, the attacker’s father, Dan Turner, pleaded with the judge to go easy on his son.
He wrote that his son should not have to go to prison for “20 minutes of action.”
That phrasing and much of Dan Turner’s letter sparked outrage across social media.
The father then tried to clarify what he meant. “I was not referring to sexual activity by the word ‘action,’ ” he said in a statement released by his son’s attorney.
Since Turner was sentenced to less than a year, he is being held in the Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose.
He is in protective custody with 1,100 others. Inmates convicted of sexual assault are held in protective custody to avoid attacks by other detainees.