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Another #MeToo Win: Californians Recall Judge in Brock Turner Rape Case

June 6, 2018, 9:18 AM UTC

California judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, was recalled on Tuesday.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court judge will reportedly be replaced by Cindy Hendrickson, an assistant district attorney who had supported the recall effort. Persky is the first California judge to be recalled since 1932.

According to an early report from the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 59% of voters supported the recall, with Hendrickson receiving 70% of the vote to serve the remaining four years of Persky’s term.

While a gender breakdown of the final vote has not yet been revealed, a poll in late May by a local San Francisco TV station found that women strongly supported the recall effort. If only men were voting, the poll suggests Persky would have kept his job by 3 points. The results and gender divide suggest that the #MeToo movement could have given the recall effort added momentum.

In January 2015, then-Stanford student Brock Turner was caught by passersby assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He was convicted by a jury of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person. Turner, who could have faced up to 14 years in jail, was sentenced to six months by Persky, who cited the severe impact jail time would have on the 20-year-old. Turner ultimately served just three months before being released in September 2016.

Persky’s sentencing led to severe backlash in the state, and California lawmakers passed a bill requiring minimum sentences in sexual assault cases, closing a loophole that allowed for less-harsh punishment in cases of intoxication in the process.

Not long after Persky handed down his ruling, a recall effort started, with a petition receiving more than 1.3 million supporters. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who has been responsible for the effort, said that “Judge Persky has failed women in a very significant way, and the voters are going to hold him accountable. Many eyes are going to be on Santa Clara County as a model for how to respond to bias against women in the legal system.”

Persky, who had served as a judge in Santa Clara County since 2003, was cleared of misconduct and won another six-year term unopposed in June 2016, just months after the Turner ruling.