When a California judge chose the most lenient sentence – six months in jail – for a Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus, the outrage made national headlines for weeks. Anger at the judge turned into a recall effort on the June 5 primary ballot and more widespread media coverage.
Despite the glare, Judge Aaron Persky has been mostly silent for nearly two years. San Francisco reporter Paul Elias has spent nearly that entire time asking for an interview, over and over. He wanted to know why Persky decided on the seemingly lenient sentence, and how he was affected by the powerful victim statement, which went viral after the woman who was raped spoke of how the attack affected her life.
This month, those efforts paid off with an exclusive, three-hour all formats interview by the AP at the judge’s home. The judge said he had no regrets, even though the sentence may cost him his judgeship. The resulting story was featured prominently on numerous websites, TV and radio stations, including the Washington Post, the LA Times, and even the San Francisco Chronicle, which has written extensively about the case. Terry Chea’s video package aired in its entirety on local station KTVU-TV.
For his persistence in getting AP a fascinating interview on a competitive story, Elias wins this week's Best of the States award.