Rape Victim Advocates Push for Judge’s Recall

     
     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A Stanford law professor leading the charge to recall a California judge who sentenced a convicted rapist to six months in jail called the judge’s continued presence on the bench “dangerous for women.”
     Speaking in front of a state building where sexual assault victims’ advocates delivered a petition to remove Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber said the sentence “sets a dangerous precedent.”
     “This is not justice,” Dauber said Friday. “This is a slap in the face to women everywhere.”
     Persky has faced a backlash of public outrage since he sentenced former Stanford University student Brock Turner, 20, to six months in jail for the rape of an unconscious, 23-year-old woman.
     Turner, who was found guilty of three felonies, faced a maximum sentence of 14 years. He could be out of jail in three months with good behavior.
     As advocates delivered their petition to the California Commission on Judicial Performance, Dauber urged people to support the petition that “matters most” — getting signatures from Santa Clara County voters, the only ones with the power to recall the judge.
     Because Persky ran unopposed in a preliminary election held on Tuesday, he has already been reelected to a new, six-year term. Dauber said a recall of the judge will not happen before the election this November, but she is confident the question will be brought to voters.
     “Rules to recall a judge in California are very intricate, but we have a very qualified team,” said Dauber, who is chairing the Committee to Recall Judge Aaron Persky. “If he were to remain on the bench for the next six years, think of all the women who would be denied justice.
     Earlier this week, California lawmakers, including Assemblywoman Susan Eggman of Stockton, called for Persky to resign, saying the lenient sentence “sends a clear message that rape will not be treated seriously.”
     Those calling for the removal of Persky have also faced pushback from critics, who say efforts to remove a judge through public pressure threatens the independence of the judiciary.
     Richard D. Burbidge, president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, issued a statement on Thursday condemning attacks on judicial independence.
     “If a party disagrees with a judge’s decision, the system which has existed for almost 250 years provides an opportunity for review,” Burbidge said. “No case that is filed in the judicial branch of government should be decided anywhere else.”
     
     Victims Speak
     Before protestors delivered their petition to remove the judge to the judicial oversight board, three sexual assault victims told their stories to a crowd outside the state building.
     One victim, Mary Jane Koontz, recalled how she was raped more than 30 years ago after her senior prom. Koontz asked that more men step up and support women who are victims of rape.
     Another victim, Chris Huquerizu, said he was raped 10 months ago by two men in San Francisco, who forced him to have unprotected sex against his will.
     “You relive that moment over and over again,” Huquerizu said. “You can’t help but cry.”
     After his rape, Huquerizu said he had to relive the pain when he went to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and found his rapist was the health clinic employee that delivered his results. Huquerizu said he gave police information about the rapist, but the authorities did nothing.
     After 10 months, Chris Huquerizu said he is still healing.
     Melissa Shell said after she was raped in 2010, people in her small town of Moss Beach, Calif., sided with her rapist and treated her like a criminal.
     “I’m basically sentenced to life as a survivor of this,” Shell said. “It’s going to be the rest of my life, but it doesn’t define me.”
     All three victims expressed solidarity with Turner’s victim, whose powerful 13-page letter to the court has gone viral online and provoked messages of support and anger through online petitions and social media.
     The petition delivered to the state’s judicial oversight board on Friday was partly organized by UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy group.
     The group plans to attend the Stanford University graduation this Sunday to march with student protestors, show support for Turner’s victim and continue to oppose the judge’s six-month sentence.

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