Ethics Dunce: Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky

Let’s see if this sentence generates a fraction of the national attention that the so-called “affluenza” sentence did. For this is much, much worse.

Star Stanford swimmer and Olympic swimming team candidate Brock Turner was arrested in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2015  when two Stanford graduate students  saw him on the ground, thrusting his hips atop an unconscious, partially clothed woman. They called police; Turner ran, and police chased him down Turner. In trial, Turner claimed that the woman had consented, though police found her unconscious.

The jury didn’t believe him, and convicted Turner of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. The usual sentence for sexual assault is six years in state prison. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, however,  sentenced Turner to six months in county jail and three years’ probation. Turner could get out of prison after just three months.

For rape.

I do not find the Judge’s reasoning persuasive. His arguments were..

  • Turner exhibited genuine feelings of remorse.

I bet. He’s sorry he got caught.

  • A judge should take into consideration the whole picture of how imprisonment affects a person’s life.

In other words, defendants with a bright future and rich parents are going to be harmed by fair sentences more than poor defendants. who are probably doomed anyway. So throw the book at the poor, at risk kids, but give the rich, and probably white, youths a Mulligan.

  • Turner didn’t have a criminal record.

That’s a factor, certainly. On the other hand, he seems to have reached the age of 20 without learning that rape is wrong. The prosecutor argued that he’s a menace to the public. I agree.

  • Both he and his victim were intoxicated.

So what? You are fully responsible if driving drunk kills someone, and you should be similarly accountable if being drunk contributes to your raping someone, whether she happens to be drunk or not.

  • Turner claims he plans to  teach and educate college students about the effects of excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity.

Yes, and O.J. swears he’s looking for his wife’s killer.

Ethan Couch, the “affluenza” kid, was sentenced as a minor, given a suspended sentence and a chance at rehabilitation because he was a minor. It didn’t work: he’s in prison for real now. I didn’t like the sentence, but the judge had rational justifications for them (and “affluenza” wasn’t one of them.) Couch was reckless, but his accident that took four lives and crippled a friend was still an accident.

Turner, in contrast, is an adult, a student at an elite college, and a privileged star athlete. Rape is never an accident. What I see in Judge Persky’s sentence is undue deference to a young adult with every advantage, who lied in his trial, and who is just as bad a risk, if not more so, than Ethan Couch. I also see a typical, and unethical, belief that the young woman was at partially at fault for her own rape.

Addendum: Here’s post on the Facebook page, Brock Turner for 2016 Olympics. It speaks for itself in so many ways:

In a tragic miscarriage of justice, Brock has been found guilty by some betas who probably never got any play in college. This sends the message that only men are capable of making decisions after they’ve had a few drinks, which belittles women everywhere. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions and it saddens us to see that the “justice” system gives one gender a free pass but holds the other gender totally accountable for both parties’ actions. Hopefully, this patronizing verdict does not encourage more women to “be that girl,” but unfortunately it probably will, just as long as they can get media attention and maybe a payout.

Go with God, Brock! We’ll be voting for Trump in the hopes that he will fix things by giving you a well-deserved pardon.


Pointer: Fred



85 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky

    • I doubt that very, very much. In reality, judges’ sentences are almost never appealed as too lenient, because the bar is too high.

      The Court of Appeal has said that a sentence is unduly lenient where “it falls outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying his mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably consider appropriate”. (Attorney General’s Reference number 4 of 1989 (1990))

      Therefore in order for the Attorney to refer it to the Court of Appeal it must be not just low but “manifestly not sufficiently severe” (Attorney General’s Reference numbers 31, 45, 43, 42, 50 and 51 of 2003 [2004]).

      Even then, the Court has a wide discretion as to whether or not to interfere in such cases. Where the Court does consider that a sentence was unduly lenient, they will not replace the sentence with that which they considered should have been passed at first instance.
      This is because the Court takes into account the fact that the offender has been put through the sentencing process a second time and gives a discount for this element of “double jeopardy”.

      This means that it is only where the sentence passed is significantly below the sentence any’ Judge could have passed that the Court of Appeal will interfere.

      Very difficult standard to meet. My guess is that the fact that the defendant is a first time offender and was impaired all by itself gets the judge over the bar where his discretion can’t be challenged on the law.

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