In a unanimous decision, a panel has cleared a California judge of committing any misconduct when he infamously gave Stanford rapist Brock Turner just six months in jail.
Turner had been found guilty of three felonies for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman, but he only served about half of his already light sentence.
The case received national attention after the 23-year-old victim read a powerful statement to Turner in court.
“How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment,” the victim said in court. “If a first-time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be?”
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky had justified the sentence by saying that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on [Turner].” The exceptionally light sentence sparked outrage, with over 1.3 million people signing a Change.org petition calling for Persky to be removed from the bench. Advocates pushed for a recall.
Critics accused Persky of misconduct and bias. Perhaps, they charged, he had been swayed by a letter from Turner himself asking for a shorter sentence, or by his privileged background as a swimmer at an elite college, or by his race. (Persky had given a Latinx man facing similar charges three years of prison time in comparison to Turner’s six months.)
The case made its way to the Commission on Judicial Performance, which reviews complaints of judicial misconduct and has the power to discipline judges if misconduct is found.
In a statement on Monday, the commission explained its reasoning. “There is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged in judicial misconduct warranting discipline,” the commission said in the ruling. Persky has already resigned from hearing criminal cases.