Utah Judge Thomas Low praises convicted rapist,former LDS bishop Keith Vallejo,while victim watches https://t.co/S9Us4hSVKu— Stanley's Mom (@whenpigsflyyy) April 15, 2017
A Utah judge actually told a convicted rapist that he was “an extraordinarily good man” — right in front of his victims.
Utah Judge Thomas Low, in a voice filled with emotion, praised Keith Vallejo, a former bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was found guilty of molesting two women and raping one with an object in separate incidents dating back to 2013, according to KUTV.
“The court had no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man,” Low said before sentencing Vallejo. “But great men sometimes do bad things.”
Two women testified at the trial that the then-bishop had inappropriately touched them while they were staying at his Provo home in 2013 and 2014.
Julia Kirby was 19-years-old and a student at Brigham Young University, when Vallejo, her brother-in-law, groped her multiple times. A second victim told police that the bishop raped her when she was 17 while she slept on his couch in 2014.
The 43-year-old man was convicted by a jury for 10 second-degree felonies of forcible sexual abuse and first-degree felony of object rape but was allowed to remain free until his sentencing. Judge Low eventually sentenced the former bishop to concurrent terms of one to 15 years in prison for the second-degree felonies and five years to life for the rape conviction.
The judge attended BYU where almost all students are Mormon but it not confirmed if he follows the faith. Prosecutor Ryan McBride said there was also no evidence that Low had any prior friendship with Vallejo because he would have to disclose something like that.
However, one of the victims, Kirby, said that the judge praising her rapist in front of her was “unacceptable.”
“That judge shouldn’t have done that,” Kirby told KUTV. “For him to say that in a courtroom in front the victim who was abused and raped by this man, that he is a great person, to me was unacceptable and unprofessional.”
She also accused Low of caring more about the perpetrator than the victims and she plans to file a complaint in the hopes the judge will be impeached.
Restore Our Humanity, a Utah civil rights group that helps sexual abuse victims, will also file a complaint against the judge. Director Mark Lawrence said Low showed complete “disregard” for the victims.
“There are some people who would think that we're making a big issue out of this,” Lawrence said. ”But this isn't a simple misdemeanor or victimless crime. Sexual assault cannot be taken lightly, and everyone must stand up for these victims and survivors.”
“A blanket statement that ‘you’re a wonderful person’ is not appropriate for somebody who’s being sentenced for sexually assaulting two girls,” Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Research Center, said. “These are things that people consider when they’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it to report [their assault] to the police.”
Attorney McBride also said the suspect’s brother compared the man to Jesus while arguing that Vallejo was being wrongly convicted.
“I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge the good things that someone has done in their lives,” said McBride. “But I think whenever you do that in a case like this, you’ve also got to say, ‘But it doesn’t excuse what you’ve done.’”
Low’s comment may have far-reaching consequences. It serves to highlight the myth that people who appear to be “model citizens” can do no wrong. By calling a heinous crime a mistake or simply a “bad thing,” Low also undermined the seriousness of the sexual assault. Statements like these also leave a wrong impact on sexual assault victims, who may already be too afraid or ashamed to come forward and can make them think their stories won't be believed. Already, many suspects hide behind the reputation of upstanding citizens.
FFS - Someone should explain to Utah "Judge" Thomas Low that "good" ppl don't rape other ppl.— Capn Louie (@CaptainLouie) April 14, 2017
If someone raped Judge Thomas Low, do you think he'd consider them a "great man" then? This shithead needs to step down. #PussyGrabsBack— TWCR (@PSLM2018) April 14, 2017
Judge Thomas Low: "The court has no doubt Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man. But great men sometimes do bad things."— April Gardner (@slignot) April 14, 2017
VOTE HIM OUT.
As for Vallejo, he has refused to admit guilt, stating, “The justice system is funny. The whole thing is geared to bullying you into confessing. The whole thing is geared to push you into pleading.”