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Stanford rape case judge recuses himself in child porn case

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Aaron Persky as the California judge who sentenced a Stanford athlete, Brock Turner, to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster.

PALO ALTO, Calif. —  The judge at the center of a controversial sentence involving Brock Turner, a former Stanford student convicted of sexual assault, has recused himself from making a decision in another sex case.

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky was expected to decide on Thursday whether to reduce a plumber’s felony conviction for possession of child pornography to a misdemeanor, but has now decided to take himself off the case, apparently in light of media coverage.

“While on vacation earlier this month, my family and I were exposed to publicity surrounding this case,” Persky said in a written ruling obtained by CNN.

“This publicity has resulted in a personal family situation such that ‘a person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial.’ ”

It’s not clear what “family situation” led to Persky’s decision.

The judge has faced harsh criticism since he sentenced former Stanford swimmer Turner to six months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Prosecutors had asked that Turner be sentenced to six years in prison for the January 2015 assault.

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Outraged by what they believed was an unusually light sentence, critics led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber launched a campaign to recall Persky.

While examining Perksy’s record, Dauber found a case involving the plumber, Robert Chain.

The 48-year-old was arrested in May 2014 and accused of downloading pornographic images of children.

Persky sentenced him to four days in jail.

According to Dauber’s research, others convicted of similar crimes in Santa Clara County got at least six months in jail.

Persky also indicated he would be willing to reduce Chain’s felony to a misdemeanor if he stayed out of trouble. Defense attorneys often press to have felonies reduced to misdemeanors because it makes finding employment easier among potential employers who do background checks.

The issue will now be decided by a different judge in October. Chain’s attorney, Brian Madden, declined to comment.

While pleased with Persky’s decision to recuse himself, Dauber said the recall campaign will go forward.

“We’re building support and endorsements from elected officials,” she said.

She said there will also be a rally September 2 at the Hall of Justice in downtown San Jose, the day Turner is expected to be released from jail.

Persky has not responded to requests for comment.

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