The California judge who was recalled from office over his lenient sentence for Brock Turner, a college student convicted of felony sexual assault, was relieved of his role Wednesday as a girls’ junior varsity tennis coach at a high school in San Jose.
Michael Aaron Persky was removed from office as a judge on the Santa Clara County Superior Court in 2018 after a recall effort by voters dissatisfied with the light sentence for Turner, a swimmer at Stanford University. Persky’s opponents alleged Turner’s gender, race and class privilege spared him from a harsher sentence.
Persky sentenced him to six months of incarceration, of which Turner only served three, plus three years of probation and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Persky was hired over the summer at Lynbrook High, a school of close to 1,800 students in San Jose, but lost the job on Wednesday after public outcry.
“We believe this outcome is in the best interest of our students and school community,” a spokeswoman for the Fremont Union High School District said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The District will begin the search for a new coach immediately with the goal of ensuring that the athletes on the JV tennis team are able to have a successful season. Both the Lynbrook and District staff will be supporting the team and their families throughout this transition.”
The spokeswoman told The Post in another statement earlier Wednesday that Persky’s connection to the Turner case was “brought to our attention” last week.
“Mr. Persky is in his first year as an athletic coach in our District,” that statement continued. “He applied for the open coaching position over the summer and successfully completed all of the District’s hiring requirements before starting as a coach, including a fingerprint background check. He was a qualified applicant for the position, having attended several tennis coaching clinics for youth and holds a high rating from the U.S. Tennis Association.
“In response to concerns from some members of our community, we held a meeting with the parents of both the JV and varsity girls’ tennis teams on Sept. 9 to provide parents with background on the situation. Our focus remains on ensuring that our students have the best possible educational experience – both academically and athletically.”
An online petition was posted to Change.org asking Lynbrook Principal Maria Jackson to remove Persky from the coaching position and said his hiring “devalues everything the survivor has been through, the courage of the story told, and her incredible strength to stand up for what she believes in.”
“How can we allow girls aged 13-18 to be under surveillance and authority of a man who has a repeated history of allowing severe rape and sexual assault cases to be brushed under the rug?” the petition asks.
The news of Persky’s hiring comes not even a week after Chanel Miller, the survivor of Turner’s assault, revealed her identity in a memoir titled “Know My Name.”
Miller was a graduate student at the time of the assault and attended a fraternity party with her younger sister on Stanford’s campus, she told Persky’s courtroom in her victim impact statement. She was known during the proceedings only as “Emily Doe.”
She drank too fast, she said, misunderstanding her alcohol tolerance since her undergrad days, and blacked out, recalling only that she awoke on a gurney in a hospital hallway to the news she had been assaulted.
Two international students biking past found Turner on top of Miller around 1 a.m. and confronted him when they observed Miller was not conscious. Turner tried to run from the scene but was tackled by the two international students, who held him until police arrived.
“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me,” Miller told him in court, “and that’s why we’re here today.”
Turner was convicted on three felony counts of sexual assault and faced a maximum of 14 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for six years of incarceration. Probation officials suggested a “moderate” jail term. Persky imposed a fraction of those recommendations, which spurred a recall effort.
Miller called the sentence “a soft timeout.”
Persky was the first California jurist to be removed from office midterm by voters in 86 years.
He wrote in a statement responding to the recall effort, “As a judge, my role is to consider both sides. California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders. 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.”
That didn’t sway Californians at the ballot box who ousted him by a 23 percent margin.
“As this is a first offense I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape,” Miller told Persky’s courtroom. It doesn’t make sense. 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.”
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.