Over the past several weeks, my Facebook feed and home mailbox have been bombarded by propaganda from the campaign to recall Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, the judge who presided over the trial of Brock Turner.
As the June 5 election approaches and the inflammatory, incomplete information continues to proliferate, I can’t bite my lip any longer. I must speak out to counter, correct and call out the ugly tactics and misleading propaganda of the recall mob.
The recall campaign consistently emphasizes that Judge Persky sentenced Turner to only six months in jail, calling it a “slap on the wrist.” The message sent by the recall proponents suggests that Turner, after serving his jail sentence, was free to live his life normally and unfettered.
The campaign purposefully and deceptively neglects to inform the public that the sentence was much more severe than meets the eye. Turner was placed on formal, felony probation and can still be sentenced to up to 14 years in state prison If he violates his probation by failing to comply or by committing a new crime.
Turner is now a convicted felon, a branding he cannot shake for the remainder of his being that will impact his ability to attend school or attain employment. He must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and could be convicted of new crimes if he fails to do so. He suffered multiple “strikes” on his record, subjecting him to California’s so-called Three Strikes law if ever accused of crimes in the future.
Did Turner only get six months in jail? Hardly. He got a life sentence.
Probation Had a Say
Another ad notes that “everyone but Judge Persky thinks that sexual assault deserves a very serious punishment.” Again, this argument incorrectly presumes that the life altering sentence imposed by Judge Persky upon Turner was not serious.
More than that, this propaganda fails to mention that the Santa Clara County Probation Department submitted a probation report recommending to the Judge that, based on all of the circumstances and factors of the case, Turner receive a county jail sentence along with probation supervision.
Judge Persky fairly applied those factors and rendered a reasonable, thoughtful sentence within the confines of the law and endorsed by the the probation department.
The System Worked
The recall campaign also contends that Judge Persky’s sentence of Turner will deter sexual assault victims from reporting and will not deter potential offenders from perpetrating sex crimes. The Turner case did not promote or perpetuate rape culture; instead, it exemplified how our seriously our system treats sexual assault claims.
Turner’s case wasn’t dismissed nor was he given some lenient plea bargain. He was arrested, charged, tried and convicted for his sexual assault of the victim. He suffered and continues to suffer severe consequences.
The victim had her voice heard, first by police, then at trial by the jury and at sentencing by the Judge and community. No future, potential sexual assault assailant will be emboldened by the case or sentence and no victim will be deterred from reporting because of the outcome. Such claims are baseless and without merit.
Incomplete, Misleading Rhetoric
Other pro-recall ads and material point out that Judge Persky sentenced a man convicted of felony child pornography possession to four days in jail in an effort to establish a pattern of leniency or inappropriate decisions by Judge Persky.
They again failed to mention that man had plead guilty to the charge and also received three years probation and a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender.
Another instance of misinformation by the recall proponents and another example of perpetuating the mass incarceration mentality of incarceration equaling justice.
Judge Persky ≠ Donald Trump
Finally, a recent mailer I received from the recall proponents posits a photo of Judge Persky next to a photo of Donald Trump because Persky apparently hired a political consultant who worked as the Arizona state director for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Despite no indication that Persky is connected to or aligned with Donald Trump personally or politically, the recall advocates purposefully use the overwhelming anti-Trump furor in Santa Clara County to support their cause, an ugly, childish and misleading tactic.
Because they have no credible, reliable evidence or bonafide arguments to support their attempt to recall a reputable jurist from the bench, the recall campaign resorts to inflammatory, deceptive ploys to further their agenda.
Don’t fall for it. Vote NO on the recall of Judge Aaron Persky.
Sajid Khan is a public defender in Santa Clara County, the author of Closing Arguments, a blog focused on criminal law and social justice, and one half of the podcast Aider & Abettor. Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Want to submit an op-ed? Email pitches to [email protected].