California: A US judge facing seething criticism for handing a light sentence to a former Stanford University student convicted of sexual assault has been removed from a similar case on grounds he may be biased.
Prosecutors in Santa Clara County, in northern California, on Tuesday filed a challenge against Aaron Persky in a case involving a male nurse accused of sexually assaulting a sedated woman.
Persky has been at the center of a firestorm over a six-month jail sentence he handed down earlier this month against Brock Turner, who had been convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on the campus of the prestigious university.
The request to have him removed from the new case came after he suddenly dismissed a misdemeanor theft case before deliberations started, arguing prosecutors had not made their case.
"We are disappointed and puzzled at judge Persky`s unusual decision to unilaterally dismiss a case before the jury could deliberate," Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement to AFP, confirming Persky`s removal from the new sex assault case.
"After this and the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient.
"This is a rare and carefully considered step for our office. In the future, we will evaluate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice."
The judge could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rosen had disagreed with Persky`s ruling in the Turner case, stating at the time that the lenient sentence did not "factor in the true seriousness of this sexual assault, or the victim`s ongoing trauma."
"Campus rape is no different than off-campus rape," he said. "Rape is rape."
The sentence, which gained international attention after publication of the victim`s powerful statement to the court in which she described the assault`s impact on her life, has prompted widespread outrage and calls for Persky to be recalled.