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High school fires ex-judge because he issued unpopular sentence in Stanford rape case

LA Times editorial denounces ‘spineless school bureaucrats’

When the mob ended Aaron Persky’s judicial tenure because he issued a sentence in line with sentencing guidelines, he may have thought he could move on with his life.

Nope.

The Fremont Union High School District in California fired the former Santa Clara County judge after another mob demanded his total exclusion from civic life.

The Los Angeles Times reports that San Jose’s Lynbrook High School had hired Persky as a coach on the junior varsity girls tennis team. He has “attended several youth tennis coaching clinics and holds a high rating” from the U.S. Tennis Association.

But the school district refused to stand up to a mob of students, parents and alumni from Lynbrook who prefer that judges execute mob justice than constitutional justice.

We covered the mob campaign against Persky from the start of his six-month sentence handed down on Stanford University student Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious student.

Defense lawyers quickly cautioned that the sentence was harsher than laymen realized, including lifetime registration as a sex offender, easy-to-violate probation and placement in a prison with a reputation for murdering inmates.

The claim that Persky was easy on men quickly fell apart: He had followed the recommendation of a female probation officer in Turner’s sentence, and the female victim (below) testified that she didn’t want Turner to go to prison.

(Chanel Miller recently outed herself as the formerly anonymous victim, ahead of a memoir to be published this month. Her 2015 statement that Turner “doesn’t need to be behind bars” does not appear to have been mentioned in media coverage.)

MORE: Turner’s victim didn’t want him to go to jail

Stanford law alumni condemned the Stanford law professor, Michele Dauber, who started the campaign to recall Persky from the bench. The local bar association denounced the recall effort, as did the dean of the University of California-Berkeley’s law school.

A liberal legal writer said the campaign against Persky was particularly dumb because he’s a “progressive” who favors rehabilitation and has handed down similar sentences “across racial and class lines.”

The successful recall, which included vandalism against recall opponents, will likely lead to harsher sentences on far less privileged defendants in the runup to elections, a result that should horrify progressives and make them think twice about illiberal campaigns against the judiciary.

The school district had no idea that Persky had handed down the Turner sentence, spokesperson Rachel Zlotzviver told the Times:

The longtime jurist was hired after applying for the open coaching position over the summer. He “successfully completed all of the district’s hiring requirements before starting as a coach, including a fingerprint background check,” Zlotzviver said.

Persky confirmed the Sept. 11 firing in a statement to NBC Bay Area, saying that Superintendent Polly Bove “explained that she was motivated by a desire to protect the players from the potentially intrusive media attention related to my hiring.” He called it a “privilege to coach the team, if only for a short time.”

The cowardly school and district refused to even admit that it fired Persky, saying his employment “has ended” and that parting ways is “in the best interest of our students and school community.”

MOREMass incarceration will worsen because of mob calling for Persky’s head

The Times editorial board was outraged by the school district’s response, denouncing the “spineless school bureaucrats” for treating Persky as “the attacker himself” and ignoring that his sentence “comported with the law as it existed” and the probation department recommendation.

Firing him as tennis coach is “ridiculously gratuitous, cowardly and off-base,” the editorial continued: “The action helps turn the quest for justice into mob rule, the law into a popularity contest and the independent judiciary into an endangered species.”

The editorial board mocked the reasoning behind the petition that convinced the school district to fire Persky:

As a coach he’s a mandatory reporter of abuse, the argument goes, but he couldn’t possibly be trusted with that job — supposedly because of the unsatisfactory sentence he gave Turner. And besides, he lost an election (a judicial recall), so how could he be qualified to be a tennis coach?

That’s a chilling sort of mentality. It’s the kind of thinking that led the good people of California to create a criminal justice system that made eternal pariahs of former offenders and made irredeemable “predators” of troubled juveniles.

The Fremont Union School District committed “an act of vengeance and political (take your pick) correctness or cowardice,” and failed its mission to educate students “in proportionality, in courage and in justice,” the editorial concludes.

Read the Times report and editorial.

MORE: Bar association denounces recall effort against Persky

IMAGE: The Mercury News/YouTube

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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