Justice

The Stanford Assault Judge Has a Troubling History

June 9th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

The judge who gave a light sentence to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault is now facing criticism for his handling of a previous sex crime case.

In recent days, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky has become as much a story as Brock Turner. The judge caused a huge backlash when he sentenced Turner, who was convicted last week on charges of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, to just six months in prison.

A previous sexual assault case presided over by Persky is now drawing attention.

In a 2011 civil suit involving the alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl by eight members of a college baseball team, Persky let defense attorneys display racy photos of the victim as a way to invalidate her claim that the assault left her traumatized, Broadly reported.

"Did you have PTSD when you did the acts shown in these pictures?" defense attorney Alison Crane asked at the time.

The case revolved around a 2007 party where the victim was reportedly discovered in a room "nearly comatose" and lying in vomit, according to a Mercury News report. Eight members of the De Anza College baseball team, who were allegedly with the girl in the room, said she consented to group sex.

But eyewitnesses described it differently.

"I saw a guy on top of her, thrusting his hips. ... I saw another guy, um, come up to her and he was forcing oral copulation on her," Lauren Bryeans, one of the three De Anza soccer players who rescued the victim, told ABC. "She wasn't moving at all. Her eyes weren't open."

De Anza College

While the district attorney in the original investigation, citing a lack of evidence, never filed charges against the baseball players, the victim sued her alleged abusers in civil court. Only two of the eight ended up going to trial.

The victim claimed the incident was a traumatizing and life-ruining experience. But in the civil case against two of the alleged perpetrators, Judge Persky allowed pictures of the victim, taken at least a year after the alleged gang rape, to be shown to the jury. According to Mercury News, the pictures showed the woman at a party wearing a "garter belt and what appear to be fishnet stockings," as well as being straddled by a man on a bed.

The defense said the pictures were in '"direct contradiction' of plaintiff's claim that she is socially isolated and socially reticent," Mercury News reported.

All of the defendants either settled out of court or were exonerated by a jury.

Ironically, as Broadly points out, the outcomes of both the alleged gang-rape case and Turner's sexual assault case last week seem to contradict the tough-on-sex-crime ticket Judge Persky ran on back in 2002.

"I focus on the prosecution of sexually violent predators, working to keep the most dangerous sex offenders in custody and in mental hospitals," reads Persky's 2002 platform statement.