A judge who is facing a recall effort over the sexual-assault sentence he gave a former Stanford University swimmer is publicly defending himself for the first time, saying that it's his job to consider lighter sentences for first offenders and that he cannot allow public opinion to factor in his decisions.
"California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders," Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky wrote in the statement filed with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
It cites a review of Persky's rulings by the Associated Press that found that he followed the recommendations of the parole board in every similar case, suggesting that Turner did not receive special treatment for his status as a white collegiate athlete, as many critics have suggested.
"As a judge, my role is to consider both sides," Persky says in the statement. "It's not always popular, but it's the law and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor."
Persky add that he "fought vigorously for victims" when he was a prosecutor.
If approved by the county, Persky's statement will appear on the petitions for his recall, along with a statement filed by his opponents.
Those opponents, a group led by Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber, filed paperwork Monday with the registrar in the first formal step toward removing Persky.
The group will have 160 days to gather the nearly 59,000 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify the measure for the ballot next year.
Turner could have faced up to 14 years behind bars for sexually assaulting the woman who had passed out behind a trash bin near a fraternity house.