A California state judicial panel cleared judge Aaron Persky of any misconduct relating to his controversial lenient sentence for the Stanford swimmer found guilty of sexual assault.
“The commission has concluded that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline,” the panel wrote in their decision Monday (via Huffington Post). “[T]he sentence was within the parameters set by law and was therefore within the judge’s discretion.”
21-year-old Brock Turner faced up to 14 years in prison after being found guilty of assault with intent to commit rape and penetration of an intoxicated or unconscious person stemming from a January 2015 incident. Prosecutors asked Persky to sentence Turner to six years in prison; Persky instead handed down his infamous sentence of six months in jail.
After spending only three months behind bars, Turner was released in September for “good behavior.” He must still complete three years of probation as well as reregister as a Tier III sex offender every 90 days for the remainder of his life.
In delivering his light sentence, Persky admitted he was swayed by the remorse Turner expressed during one hearing, as well as the defense lawyer’s argument that Turner was in a “drunken state” at the time of the assault. “I mean, I take him at his word that, subjectively, that’s his version of events,” Persky said. “The jury, obviously, found it not to be the sequence of events.”
Persky also received 39 letters vouching for Turner’s character, which also informed his decision to hand down a lenient punishment.
However, although Persky’s sentence was exceedingly less than what the conviction usually demanded, the California panel found no evidence of misconduct in the Turner case or other controversial cases Persky presided over.
“The commission is not a reviewing court ― it has no power to reverse judicial decisions or to direct any court to do so ― irrespective of whether the commission agrees or disagrees with a judge’s decision,” the commission said. “It is not the role of the commission to discipline judges for judicial decisions unless bad faith, bias, abuse of authority, disregard for fundamental rights, intentional disregard of the law, or any purpose other than the faithful discharge of judicial duty is established by clear and convincing evidence.”
Following the Turner trial, nearly 1.2 million people signed a petition demanding for Persky’s removal from the bench; after being removed from a separate sexual assault case, the judge instead requested reassignment so that he could only preside over civil cases.