Judge in Stanford trial taken off new sexual assault case

SAN FRANCISCO • The California judge facing criticism over his sentencing of a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexual assault has been removed from a new sexual assault case after complaints by prosecutors.

"We lack confidence that Judge (Aaron) Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anaesthetised female patient," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement on Tuesday.

He called the move "rare and carefully considered". Mr Rosen cited the six-month jail sentence Judge Persky handed down to Brock Turner, 20, earlier this month following the former swimmer's conviction for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman after a party in January last year.

Prosecutors sought a six-year prison term.

Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape, and penetration of an intoxicated and unconscious person.

Under California law, those charges are not considered rape because they did not involve penile penetration.

Ms Stacey Capps, chief trial deputy for the district attorney's office, said the new case was reassigned to another judge and a hearing was held on Tuesday afternoon.

She said that the victim was "particularly vulnerable" factored into the move.

Ms Capps said in the new case, Cecil Webb stands accused of touching the vagina and breast of a woman who was anaesthetised ahead of surgery at a Santa Clara hospital in November 2014.

Webb has pleaded not guilty and his attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

Turner's sentencing drew criticism after the publication of a letter the victim read in court, detailing the devastation she felt from the assault.

A Stanford law professor is leading a drive to gather signatures for a petition to remove Judge Persky.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Judge in Stanford trial taken off new sexual assault case'. Print Edition | Subscribe