Stanford rape case Judge Aaron Persky faces recall petition

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A plane flies over Stanford stadium in June 2016Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A plane flies over Stanford stadium in June 2016

A California judge who faced a nationwide backlash for his sentencing of campus rapist is facing a formal attempt to remove him from the bench.

Community leaders from Santa Clara County filed a notice of intention on Monday to collect signatures to recall Judge Aaron Persky next year.

Judge Persky was accused of leniency in his June 2016 punishment of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner.

Turner had faced up to 14 years, but was handed a six-month sentence.

He was released after serving only three months in county jail for the January 2015 assault.

"Judge Aaron Persky stunned the world when he sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a fraternity party," the notice to circulate a recall petition states.

Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who is leading the recall effort along with 50 community leaders, said at a news conference: "Santa Clara County residents deserve a judge who will protect victims, not rapists.

"Women have had enough of rape culture," she added. "We are ready to take action and recall this judge."

Image source, Santa Clara County
Image caption,
Brock Turner (left) was sentenced by Judge Persky (right)

Judge Persky has seven days to submit a written response of no more than 200 words, said Anita Torres, a spokesperson for the county's registrar of voters.

His response, which would appear in next year's guide document for voters, would be expected to set out the case for why he should remain on the bench, Ms Torres added.

If activists can gather 58,634 signatures - 20% of the voting electorate - in the next 160 days, then voters in the 2018 countywide elections would vote on the recall.

On a website created by Judge Persky, he argues he has "a reputation for being fair to both sides".

"I believe strongly in judicial independence," he writes. "I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to appease politicians or ideologues."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Brock Turner left the Santa Clara County jail in September 2016

After Judge Persky's controversial ruling, the California State Assembly passed a law expanding the definition of rape and increased penalties for offenders who assault unconscious victims.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen also successfully had another sexual assault case removed from Judge Persky's docket, and he has already been transferred to a civil court in San Jose.

Judge Persky has been cleared of misconduct by the California Commission on Judicial Performance.