Judge Aaron Persky’s decision last week to sentence former Stanford student Brock Turner six months jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman created a firestorm as critics said the punishment was too light.
“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others,” Persky said about the sentence, according to the New York Times.
Here’s what you need to know about Persky:
1. Persky initially lost a campaign for the Santa Clara Superior Court in 2002,
but former California governor Gray Davis appointed him the following year to serve as a judge on the court, where he currently serves, Heavy.com reported.
2. Persky is up for reelection this year,
but his name will not appear in Wednesday’s primary because he is running unopposed. A write-in candidate could still challenge him in the November election, although he has never been challenged during his Superior Court tenure.
3. He received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University,
the same institution where Turner was studying at the time of the assault. Persky was the captain of the lacrosse team at Stanford, and critics have suggested he may have identified with Turner, an Olympic hopeful swimmer. “I think he was very persuaded by the background of the young man as an elite athlete,” said Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor and family friend of the victim, according to NBC.
4. In 2011, Persky presided over a civil case in which a young woman claimed she was gang raped at a party
while intoxicated and unconscious by a group of baseball players from a Cupertino community college. In a decision slammed by women’s advocates, the jury did not find two of the men liable and did not award the alleged victim money. The other men reached settlements with the woman or had the lawsuit dismissed, according to Mercury News. Supporters of the alleged victim criticized Persky for allowing photos of the woman partying and dressed in skimpy clothing to be shown in court.
5. He has a history of prosecuting violent sex crimes.
As a criminal prosecutor in Santa Clara’s district attorney office, Persky concentrated “on the prosecution of sexually violent predators, working to keep the most dangerous sex offenders in custody in mental hospitals,” according to his campaign website. The judge also serves as an executive committee member of a support network for female victims of domestic violence.
6. Persky has his share of supporters.
Barbara Muller, a criminal defense attorney who works in his court, called him “one of the fairest judges” in the county, according to AP. Santa Clara deputy public defender Gary Goodman echoed Muller’s sentiments, referring to Persky as “an absolutely solid and respected judge.”
7. In 2000, Persky prosecuted a man who had left anti-Semitic voice messages for a Palo Alto Jewish community center.
In 2015, he presided over a case involving a man who spray painted swastikas on Stanford student residences.
8. California Sen. Barbara Boxer denounced the sentence as outrageous,
especially since the victim was “brave enough to come forward.” “I’m coming out to you simply as a woman wanting to be heard,” she said in the statement to CNN. “For now I am every woman.”
Persky could not be reached for comment. In a statement, his office said he was barred from commenting on the case because of a potential appeal.
Contact Josefin Dolsten at email@example.com or on Twitter, @JosefinDolsten
Josefin Dolsten is a former news fellow at the Forward, writing about politics and culture, and editing the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.