CBSN

Stanford sex assault case judge recalled by Northern Calif. voters

SAN FRANCISCO -- Northern California voters on Tuesday recalled a judge from office after he sentenced a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault to a short jail sentence instead of prison. Voters opted to oust Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky. He was targeted for recall in June 2016 shortly after he sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman outside a fraternity house on campus. Prosecutors argued for a 7-year prison sentence.

Turner is also required to register for life as a sex offender. He was released from jail for good behavior after serving three months. He now lives with his parents near Dayton, Ohio.

The judge was following a recommendation from the county probation department, and the California Commission on Judicial Performance ruled that he handled the case legally. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen didn't appeal the sentence. Rosen also opposed the recall, though he said the sentence was too lenient.

The case sparked a national debate over the criminal justice system's treatment of sexual assault victims and racial inequities in court. Persky is white and holds undergraduate degrees from Stanford and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Many complained Persky showed too much deference to Turner, a white Stanford scholarship athlete whose parents could afford a private attorney.

Persky declined comment when reached by phone late Tuesday.

The election was viewed as one of the first electoral tests of the #MeToo movement's political clout.

Stanford University Law professor Michele Dauber launched the recall effort in June 2016, reports CBS San Francisco.

The Recall Persky Campaign issued a statement from Dauber after the early returns, the station said.

"We are cautiously optimistic. Tonight's results mirror what we heard while we were out talking to voters," the statement read. "We are thankful for our supporters and every person who donated their time – it truly made a difference."          

The victim's statement read in court before Turner's sentence was published online and circulated widely on social media. Known as Emily Doe in court, the statement focused a national spotlight on the local recall effort.

"You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today," she read. She also recounted the ordeal of the investigation and Turner's trial, where she was cross-examined about her drinking habits and sexual experience.

Former Stanford student Brock Turner, who was sentenced to six months in county jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious and intoxicated woman, is shown in this Santa Clara County Sheriff's booking photo taken Jan. 18, 2015.

Former Stanford student Brock Turner is seen in Santa Clara County Sheriff's booking photo taken Jan. 18, 2015

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters

"Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney's questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers," she read.

CBS News and The Associated Press don't general identify victims of sexual crimes.

Citing judicial ethics, Persky has declined to discuss the case in detail because Turner has appealed. But Persky told The Associated Press in an interview that he has no regrets over how he handled the case or his courtroom.

Early returns showed Santa Clara County assistant district attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson leading in the race to replace the judge.