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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Judge who sentenced swimmer recalled amid #MeToo movement

The case sparked a national debate over the criminal justice system's treatment of sexual assault victims

Judge Aaron Persky poses for photos in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Persky says he would handle the sexual assault case of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner the same way today as he did almost exactly two years ago. Jeff Chiu / AP
Judge Aaron Persky poses for photos in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Persky says he would handle the sexual assault case of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner the same way today as he did almost exactly two years ago. Jeff Chiu / AP

Northern California voters recalled a judge from office after he sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault to a short jail sentence instead of prison.

Voters opted to oust Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky. The judge was targeted for recall in June 2016 shortly after he sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman outside a fraternity house on campus. Prosecutors argued for a seven-year prison sentence.

Turner is also required to register for life as a sex offender. He was released from jail for good behaviour after serving three months. He now lives with his parents near Dayton, Ohio.

The judge was following a recommendation from the county probation department, and the California Commission on Judicial Performance ruled that he handled the case legally. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen didn't appeal the sentence. District Attorney Rosen also opposed the recall, though he said the sentence was too lenient.

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The case sparked a national debate over the criminal justice system's treatment of sexual assault victims and racial inequities in court. Mr Persky is white and holds undergraduate degrees from Stanford and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Many complained he showed too much deference to Turner, a white Stanford scholarship athlete whose parents could afford a private attorney.

Mr Persky declined comment when reached by phone late Tuesday.

The election was viewed as one of the first electoral tests of the #MeToo movement's political clout.

The victim's statement read in court before Turner's sentence was published online and circulated widely on social media. Known as Emily Doe in court, the statement focused a national spotlight on the local recall effort.

"You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today," she read. She also recounted the ordeal of the investigation and Turner's trial, where she was cross-examined about her drinking habits and sexual experience.

"Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney's questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers," she read.

Citing judicial ethics, Mr Persky has declined to discuss the case in detail because Turner has appealed. But he told The Associated Press in an interview that he has no regrets over how he handled the case or his courtroom.

Early returns showed Santa Clara County assistant district attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson leading in the race to replace the judge.

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