Campaign to remove Santa Clara County judge Aaron Persky headed to ballot

A campaign to recall a Santa Clara County judge for giving a former Stanford student a light sentence for a sexual assault conviction has qualified for the June ballot, officials said Tuesday.

After conducting a random sampling of the nearly 95,000 signatures submitted by the campaign to recall Judge Aaron Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, the county registrar of voters on Tuesday found that enough of the signatures are valid to qualify for the June 5, ballot.

“We are extremely grateful to the thousands of volunteers who worked so hard to qualify this recall and to the nearly 100,000 Santa Clara County voters who signed the petition,’’ said Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, the leader of the recall campaign.

Dauber said that when the victim in the case learned of the light sentence, she was "struck silent." 

"But today the voters of Santa Clara County have spoken loud and clear,'' she said.

Efforts to remove Persky from the bench began in September 2016 after he sentenced former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six-months in jail. Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated, and unconscious woman outside a Stanford fraternity party in 2015.

Turner served half his sentence, was released and returned to his home state of Ohio. He must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Critics say the sentence was too lenient and part of a pattern by Persky to go easy on men convicted of crimes against women.

The ballot qualification comes at a time of heightened awareness about sexual assault against women and the ouster of many high profile Hollywood celebrities and Washington politicians, including actor Kevin Spacey and former Michigan Rep. John Conyers, amid sexual misconduct allegations. The campaign used a series of #metoo videos from victims to help with the recall effort.

“This historic campaign is part of a national social movement to end impunity for athletes and other privileged perpetrators of sexual assault and violence against women,’’ Dauber said. “Judge Persky has a long history of bias in these cases and that is why so many voters signed the petition and why I am confident that the voters will select another candidate in June.”

With the signatures certified by the registrar, the matter now heads to the Feb. 6 meeting of the board of supervisors, which orders the election to determine whether or not to recall Persky. A nomination process for other candidates will be held until March 16. The recall vote will be accompanied by a contest to decide who will replace Persky if he is removed from office.

Of the nearly 95,000 signatures collected, officials looked at 4,727 signatures and found that 3,389 were valid. The number of valid signatures is more than 110 percent of the roughly 58,000 signatures that were required, registrar officials said Tuesday.

Persky’s supporters include dozens of law school professors at Stanford, UC Berkeley, Santa Clara University and other schools. They have said the sentence was lawful and in line with a probation officer’s recommendation. Persky has not commented since the controversy began.