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Judge who gave lenient sentence to sex attacker Brock Turner fired from job coaching tennis to schoolgirls

'Reprehensible' appointment had triggered outrage and protests

Chris Baynes
Friday 13 September 2019 10:33 BST
Judge Aaron Persky poses for a photo with a sign opposing his recall in Los Altos Hills, California
Judge Aaron Persky poses for a photo with a sign opposing his recall in Los Altos Hills, California (AP)

A former US judge who sentenced a sex attacker to just six months in prison has been fired from his new job as a school tennis coach following an outcry from pupils and parents.

Aaron Persky, who was ousted as a judge last year over his lenient sentencing of Stanford University student Brock Turner, had been hired over the summer to coach girls at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California.

The district schools authority said it terminated his employment this week after more than 1,200 people signed a petition condemning the appointment as “reprehensible”. Protests had also been planned.

Mr Persky, 57, became the first California judge to be removed from office in 86 years after losing a recall vote in June 2018. Campaigners said Turner's sentence helped to perpetuate a “culture of impunity for high-status perpetrators of sexual assault or domestic violence”.

Prosecutors had called a six-year jail term for the student, a star of the elite university's swimming team, after he was convicted of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape an unconscious woman on campus in 2015.

But the judge sentenced him to six months, of which he served only three. He ruled Turner bore “less moral culpability” because he was drunk at the time of the attack and said prison would have “a severe impact on him”.

The case provoked widespread outrage after the survivor’s victim impact statement, which spoke of her lasting trauma, was published online and went viral.

The petition objecting to Mr Persky’s appointment as tennis coach accused the school of “explicitly and ignorantly allowing rape culture to ensue”. It said his role would mean schoolgirls being supervised by man who allowed sexual assault to be “brushed under the rug”.

In a statement released to local media on Tuesday, Fremont Union High School District said the former judge was “a qualified applicant for the position” and was hired after completing a background check.

But the following day, amid a growing backlash, it said: “Mr Persky's employment with the district as the junior varsity girls tennis coach has ended. We believe this outcome is in the best interest of our students and school community.”

A former Lynbrook student told NBC News the appointment was “a pretty big oversight”.

Mr Persky said his sacking had been “motivated by a desire to protect the players from the potentially intrusive media attention related to my hiring”.

“Although I am disappointed with the district's decision, it was a privilege to coach the team, if only for a short time,” he added in a statement.

The row came a week after the woman attacked by Turner publicly revealed her identity for the first time. Chanel Miller, who was referred to in court papers as Emily Doe, is to release a memoir which her publisher said would “change the way we think about sexual assault forever”.

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