California judge Aaron Persky, who is facing a recall campaign after imposing a six-month jail sentence on a former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexual assault, has been reassigned at his own request from criminal to civil court.
Persky, a Superior Court judge in Palo Alto, will move to a courthouse in downtown San Jose, effective Sept. 6.
The change was announced in a statement issued by the presiding judge of Santa Clara Superior Court, Rise Jones Pichon:
"While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served. Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment."
But Persky's opponents say the transfer, which is temporary, won't impede their recall campaign.
Stanford law professor Michelle Dauber, who is leading that effort, said she is still collecting signatures. She told the East Bay Times, "This doesn't change anything. We're pleased he won't be handling criminal matters, at least for the time being, but he can transfer back. So the issue of his bias still needs to be decided by voters."
The recall campaign started in June soon after Persky sentenced former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman after a frat party. The assault was witnessed by two grad students who chased down Turner when he tried to run away from the scene. Turner was convicted of three felony counts, and prosecutors had recommended six years in prison.
At the sentencing, Persky said that "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on [Turner]."
The case continues to reverberate. Earlier this week, Persky removed himself from another sex crime case. Meanwhile, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase the penalties for sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person.