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Stanford sexual assault: Judge to stop hearing criminal cases

This June 27, 2011, photo shows Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who drew criticism for sentencing former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to only six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Image copyright AP
Image caption Judge Aaron Persky's decision was seen by many as too lenient

The judge who gave a six-month jail term to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman is to stop hearing criminal cases.

Judge Aaron Persky asked to be moved to Santa Clara County court's civil division after imposing the sentence on Brock Turner, 20, an official said.

Mr Persky's decision was widely criticised as too lenient.

The case sparked outrage fuelled by the victim's powerful impact statement.

Mr Persky received death threats, faced a recall effort and several online petitions seeking his removal in the wake of the case.

"Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment," Santa Clara County Presiding Judge Rise Jones Pichon said in a statement.

The move will take effect on 6 September.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Brock Turner was seen by two witnesses sexually assaulting an unconscious woman

Prosecutors said that in January 2015, Turner had been seen by two witnesses sexually assaulting the woman, who was lying on the ground, unconscious, on the Stanford campus. She was 22 at the time.

They said Turner had tried to run away when challenged by the witnesses, but the pair had tackled him and held him until police officers arrived.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Activists had called for the judge's removal in the wake of case

Prosecutors had asked for a six-year jail term. But in his remarks, the judge said he was concerned about the "severe impact" a longer sentence would have on Turner's life.

He also said positive character references and Turner's remorse and lack of previous criminal record were mitigating factors.

Rights activists and members of the general public accused Mr Persky of being influenced by Turner's upbringing in a wealthy, white family, and his achievements as a college swimmer.

Turner, who was a promising swimmer expected to compete for the US at Olympic level, has been banned for life by USA Swimming, the governing body for professional swimming in the US.

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