PALO ALTO, Calif. – A Northern California judge at the center of a recall campaign after his handling of a Stanford University sexual assault case was removed from a new sexual assault case Tuesday by the local district attorney.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen used a prosecutor's authority to disqualify a judge to block transfer of the new sexual assault case to Judge Aaron Persky. Persky has endured widespread criticism and calls for his removal after he sentenced former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, 20, on June 3 to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a young woman passed out from too much drink at a fraternity party where they had met.
Persky was briefly transferred a case Tuesday to decide whether a former San Jose nurse should stand trial on charges he sexually assaulted a patient while she was sedated. Each side in criminal cases is allowed one motion each to remove a judge from a case and have it assigned to another judge, but such a move is rare.
The prosecutor's so-called "papering" of Persky comes days after several potential jurors told the judge they couldn't serve on a jury in his courtroom because of the Turner sentence. The prosecutor removed Persky from the new sexual assault case the day after he tossed out a misdemeanor theft trial before it reached the jury. Perky ruled on Monday that prosecutors had not proven their theft case during the two-day trial and dismissed the case and the jury before deliberations started.
"We are disappointed and puzzled at Judge Persky's unusual decision to unilaterally dismiss a case before the jury could deliberate," the district attorney said in a prepared statement. "After this and the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient."
The district attorney said he hasn't decided whether he will disqualify Persky from all new sexual assault cases that may get assigned to him in the future.
Persky didn't respond to requests for comment.