The Santa Clara, California judge has been the subject of widespread criticism and scrutiny ever since the high-profile 2016 trial, in which he bestowed what was widely seen as a lenient sentence on Turner, a former University of Stanford student who was convicted of three felony sexual assault charges. Persky gave Turner just six months in prison, and he only ultimately served three before being released.
Persky had kept quiet about the case and his sentencing of Turner for more than a year. But on Friday, according to the Associated Press, he filed a statement with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters that finally gave a first-hand rationale for the controversial sentence, even though it didn’t specifically mention Turner by name.
“As a prosecutor, I fought vigorously for victims. As a judge, my role is to consider both sides,” Persky’s statement said. “California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders. It’s not always popular, but it’s the law, and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor.”
Beyond the part of the statement written in his own words, the letter Persky sent to the county registrar made the case that recall would be an inappropriate response to “one controversial decision.”
Persky’s statement came roughly a week after proponents of his removal filed their notice of intent to recall him. Reportedly running just 198 words in full, the notice accused Persky of protecting Turner rather than his victim and called for his ousting from the judiciary.
“Turner lied in court and never expressed remorse,” the notice read. “Santa Clara County residents deserve a judge who will protect victims, not rapists.”
For the record, Turner was convicted for sexual assault, not rape; two rape charges against him were dropped for lack of evidence of genital-to-genital contact, a requirement for rape under California law. One of the leaders of the recall movement, Michele Dauber, reportedly said this week that the case against Persky is about more than just the Turner sentencing.
“Judge Persky did not just make a single bad decision. He made a slew of bad decisions involving sex crimes and violence against women and his supporters,” Dauber said.