The judge said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him. He did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim, known publicly only as Emily Doe, who described her suffering in a more than 7,000-word statement that went viral soon after it was published by BuzzFeed. The CNN host Ashleigh Banfield devoted more than 20 minutes of airtime to reading it almost in its entirety.
The sentence, and the backlash to it, prompted California lawmakers to enact mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases, and to close a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist. Judge Persky was later cleared of any official misconduct.
Talk of a recall campaign began almost as soon as Judge Persky handed down his sentence, and early this year, the Santa Clara County registrar announced that supporters of a recall — led by Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford whose daughter is friends with Emily Doe — had collected enough signatures to put the question on Tuesday’s ballot. Among the effort’s most prominent backers were Anita Hill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
In a statement filed with the county registrar, Judge Persky — who previously worked as a prosecutor — said he had a legal and professional responsibility to consider alternatives to imprisonment for first-time offenders.
“As a judge, my role is to consider both sides,” he said in the statement. “It’s not always popular, but it’s the law, and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor.”