California judge Aaron Persky, who gave former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner a short jail term after Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, is defending himself ahead of a June 5 recall election.
Persky has remained quiet about the controversy for nearly two years, but he is now speaking out one week before voters decide if he should be removed over his handling of Turner’s sexual assault trial. The Santa Clara County Superior Court judge told the Associated Press that he has no regrets over his handling of the case.
CONTINUED COVERAGE: Oral arguments delayed in Brock Turner appeal case
"If a judge is thinking in the back of his or her mind how is this going to look? How will it look on social media? Will I be vilified on cable news? That's the wrong avenue. We can't do that. We shouldn't do that," Persky told CBS News' John Blackstone.
Turner, who graduated from Oakwood High School before attending Stanford, is appealing his sexual assault conviction. He was given a six-month sentence, but served three months due to California sentencing laws. He is registered with the Greene County Sheriff's Office as a Tier III sex offender, Ohio's most-stringent classification.
More than one million people signed an online petition calling for Persky's removal from the bench. The campaign to recall the judge has raised more than $1 million and he has raised $400,000 to fight back, CBS reported.
"If this case were before you today, the #MeToo movement being what it is, might you have been more sensitive to the feelings of the society around you?" Blackstone asked.
"Well, let me say again based on the code of judicial ethics, I can't really discuss the details of the case or my decision making," Persky replied. "But I can say that generally, the answer is absolutely not."
Michele Dauber, a Stanford University law professor who is leading the effort to recall Persky, said the judge's comments are unsurprising. She said the judge's campaign has "launched an all-out attack on Emily Doe," the unnamed victim in Turner's case.
"In his interview, Persky was asked not if he would change his decision but merely if he would be 'more sensitive' to the concerns of women and his response was 'absolutely not,'" Dauber said in an email to the Dayton Daily News. "These statements make it clear exactly why so many voters, especially women, believe it is time for Persky to leave the bench."