Judge Aaron Persky sparked controversy earlier this year when he sentenced former swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. The world-wide reaction to the decision was shift: people expressed outrage over the weak sentence, demanded changes to the law, and started a petition to have Perksy removed from the bench.
The message to Persky was clear: do not give out a weak sentence again.
Persky seemed to get the message. Persky is set to give a man who admitted to assault his female roommate year years in jail. And yet this too prompted outrage, specifically because the man in question is receiving a harsher sentence:
However, critics say that while Turner’s case prompted Mr Persky to make an exception, the judge showed no willingness to negotiate with [Raul] Ramirez to reduce his sentence.
Legally, it does not appear he can. The article notes that because Ramirez plead guilty to sexual penetration by force Persky is bound by law to issue a minimum sentence of three years. More so, California law carries harsher penalties for those who assault a conscious versus unconscious victim. One can argue that this is unfair, and it is on a moral and ethical level. However, to argue that Persky engaged in some double standard by sentencing Ramirez to three years is fallacious.
According to the information I could find, Persky has no history of handing out soft sentences. The evidence appears to be the contrary: he is known for his tough sentences. This raises a question as to why he ruled differently in Turner’s case compared to his previous rulings. Yet there is little mystery why he would rule in a tough manner now. Given the level of backlash he received, even if a case did warrant a lesser sentence Persky might not give it to avoid any further accusations of poor judgment.
His critics, however, do not appear interested in the nuances of law or Persky’s position:
Professor Michele Landis Dauber of Stanford University, who is leading the recall said: “This just shows that our concern about Judge Persky’s ability to be unbiased is justified. We continue to think that he abused his discretion in giving an unduly lenient sentence to Turner.”
Technically he did not abuse his discretion. According to California law, a judge is allowed to issue a sentence varying from probation to the maximum years, which in Turner’s case would have been 20 years. The six month sentence, of which Turner will likely only serve half, is an incredibly weak sentence for his crime. None of the factors of the case seem to warrant anything less than several years in jail, yet California law allows Persky to issue such a sentence.
If Persky had a history of letting people from wealthy families or his Alma-mater off with soft sentences one could argue that he has an issue with being biased. The evidence suggests otherwise, so it is rather odd to attack him as engaging in a double standard. It is more bizarre, however, to cry foul over Persky issuing an apparently fair sentence because in the previous case he failed to do so. At this point, the complaint is that he essentially did the right thing.
Is that the argument people truly wish to make?