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Stanford sex assault judge recusing himself from upcoming sex case

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- A California judge under fire for a light sentence given toa Stanford University swimmer is recusing himself from making his first key decision in another sex case.

The Mercury News reports Monday that Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky filed a statement with the court saying that some people might doubt that he could be impartial.

Persky was scheduled this week to consider a request from Robert Chain to reduce his conviction for possessing child pornography from a felony to a misdemeanor. The judge said last year he would be receptive to the idea if the plumber stayed sober. 

Outcry after short sentence in Stanford sexual assault case 02:25

“While on vacation earlier this month, my family and I were exposed to publicity surrounding this case,” the judge wrote in his brief ruling. “This publicity has resulted in a personal family situation such that ‘a person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial.’ “

The newspaper reports that Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who is leading the recall, said she is pleased by Persky’s recusal. Gary Goodman, a deputy public defender who opposes a recall, said the recusal is a prime example of Persky’s integrity. 

The judge is the target of a recall campaign that started in June after he sentenced former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman who passed out behind a trash bin.

The 23-year-old victim read an impassioned statement at the sentencing hearing. She described the assault in graphic detail and said her “independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition.”  

In making the ruling, Persky said he took into consideration that Turner didn’t have previous convictions, was young, wasn’t armed during the crime, didn’t demonstrate criminal sophistication, would be willing to comply with terms of probation, and wouldn’t be a danger to others if not imprisoned. He also found a prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, and his life would suffer severe “collateral consequences” resulting from the felony conviction because of the intense publicity and the requirement to register as a sex offender.  

Turner could have faced up to 14 years behind bars.  

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