Leaders of the National Organization for Women Endorse Effort to Recall Judge Aaron Persky

Dear Judge Aaron Persky,

We write to you as the largest grassroots women’s rights advocacy organization in the country, to express our outrage in the sentencing of convicted felon Brock Turner to only six months in state prison. Turner was found guilty on three counts of sexual assault: assault with the intent to commit rape; sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person; and sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person and was eligible for a maximum sentence of 14 years. As a Judge who is entrusted to administer justice and uphold the rule of law, you have irrevocably violated the public trust by handing down a sentence that is not commensurate with the seriousness of the violent, life-altering, and heinous crimes committed in this case. As a result of the clear bias you hold against sexual assault victims, your outright gender discrimination, and your failure to fairly apply the law, we the undersigned support your removal from office.

You are quoted as justifying the leniency of this sentence by saying that “Obviously, the prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” Here, you demonstrate far more concern with the outcome for the convicted perpetrator than that of the young woman who was brutally assaulted while unconscious. You clearly put more value on the life and “potential” of the young man who is a convicted rapist, then on the life and potential of the young woman who courageously stood trial in the hope of winning justice for the violence she endured. By giving a sentence that does not fit the crime, you have rejected the painful and powerful words of the victim that illustrate the very definition of the words “severe impact.”

You also stated, “There is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is…intoxicated.” However, a person who is driving while drinking is held fully responsible. A person who physically assaults someone while drinking or shoots someone while drinking is held fully responsible. Why, then, would a person who rapes while drinking not be held to at least that same standard? By giving a sentence that does not fit the crime, you fail to recognize that a majority of campus rapes involve drinking-and you send the message that there is no hope for justice for the vast majority of victims.

You also stated, “I think he will not be a danger to others.” This statement is belied by the facts. A majority of those who commit sexual assault are repeat offenders, and the average number of victims for each repeat offender is SIX. By giving a sentence that does not fit the crime, you have ignored the science of studies that show that a person like Turner is actually extremely likely to be a future danger to others.

You have failed to respect the judicial process that found this man guilty. The enormity of what you have failed to do in this case is best addressed in the words of the victim herself who said, “The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative. The fact that Brock was a star athlete at a prestigious university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a strong cultural message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”

You chose, instead, to send a different message. One that says that rape while drinking, rape on campus, and rape perpetrated by a young, white, star athlete is just not that serious. In fact, the time spent for the victim to prepare for and endure the trial will be more than the amount of time Brock Turner will serve in prison. Through your actions, you have devalued the life of this victim and of rape victims everywhere. You have made it more difficult for victims to come forward and easier for perpetrators to evade prosecution. You have sent a message that campus rape should not be taken seriously. This is not the type of justice that the public-particularly women and girls who are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual assault-should be forced to accept.

Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women
Sonia Ossorio, President, NOW New York
Jerilyn Stapleton, President, California NOW

Contact: Bryndis Isfold, bryndis@nownyc.org, 212-627-9895