PALO ALTO, Calif. - A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge at the center of a recall petition spoke for the first time on Tuesday about the recall against him began two years ago.
"Do not let public opinion influence your decision," Judge Aaron Persky told the private gathering of media at a Palo Alto home. "It corrupts the rule of law. This recall, if successful, will make it harder for judges to keep this promise."
Persky is the judge in the sexual assault case involving former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.
Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman on the Stanford campus.
The sentence sparked anger across the country because many believed it was too lenient.
After Persky spoke, a reporter asked: If you had to do it again, would you give Brock Turner the same sentence? Persky responded that the case is on appeal and he can't publicly speak about it. "I cannot break the ethical rules that I'm bound by," he said.
On a personal note, he said that the past two years has been very difficult on his family, especially his wife because they "live in the community" and there are many people who oppose what he did.
The public outcry led to a recall petition of Persky. Supporters of the recall, led by Stanford professor Michelle Dauber, turned in the necessary signatures and received supervisors’ approval, to put the recall on the upcoming June 5 ballot.
The group hosting the Q&A with Persky, led by his former colleague, retired judge LaDoris Cordell, opposes the recall. Their concern is that recalling a judge because of an unpopular decision sets a bad precedent. and makes judges less independent, and more easily influenced by popular opinion and politics. Cordell introduced Persky calling him a "fair, honest and respected judge."
Cordell and her allies point out that Persky followed the sentencing guidelines in this case and followed the probation recommendations and couldn't legally go beyond that scope as a judge. They argue that if people thought the sentence was too lenient, the way to correct that is by changing the law, not punishing the judge.
Recall organizers, though, say this was not the first questionable sentence Persky handed down and argue that because of that, voters deserve to have a say about his position.