A Utah judge has come under fire after a sentencing hearing during which he called a convicted rapist an “extraordinarily good man.”
Judge Thomas Low sentenced Keith Robert Vallejo to up to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape, but according to Jennifer Yim, executive director of the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, Low seemed to get emotional during the hearing and expressed his sympathy toward Vallejo.
The sympathy likely came from more than 50 character letters that had been submitted on Vallejo’s behalf during the trial extolling his good deeds. Vallejo was once a bishop in the Mormon faith, which may have contributed to the sympathy as well. Mormon bishops are unpaid and serve from four to five years as part of the lay clergy of the faith and are regular church members called from within the congregation to lead for a short time.
Julia Kirby, who claimed that at 19 she was groped by Vallejo while she was staying with him while attending Brigham Young University in 2013, said that she was shocked to hear the judge’s praise of the convicted rapist.
“That judge didn’t care about me,” she said Friday. “He only cared about the person he was convicting, and I think that is really kind of despicable.”
“The signal that it sends to sexual violence survivors is that if you choose to disclose, that we’re still going to treat your perpetrator as if they’re a good person,” Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.