Crime

Judge Offers Kind Words To Bishop Convicted Of Rape

| by Alex Scarr

A Salt Lake City judge is under fire for offering sympathetic words to a former member of the clergy convicted of sexual abuse.

Fourth District Court Judge Thomas Low is facing scrutiny for his seemingly understanding words directed towards Keith Vallejo, a former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was convicted of molesting two female relatives, according to KUTV.

"The court had no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man," Low said moments before he sentenced Vallejo to prison for sexual abuse on April 12. "But great men, sometimes do bad things."

Low's comments have created a stir in the community, as many felt that by saying Vallejo was a "good man," it put the blame for the sexual assaults on the victims, not Vallejo.

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"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," said victim Julia Kirby to KUTV.

"He never once said to Keith, who he had an opportunity to address that 'You are guilty, and you need to own up to these crimes.' He said, 'You're a great man, and I believe that you're this wonderful person,'" Kirby said.

"At the end of the day, we're still going to tell you that your perpetrator was a good person, they made mistake and somehow it was still your responsibility," said Turner Bitton with The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Vallejo was sentenced to one- to 15-year concurrent sentences for all 10 forcible sexual abuse convictions, in addition to five years to life for the object rape conviction.

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Low also gave Vallejo preferential treatment after conviction, allowing Vallejo to return home for nearly two months before returning for sentencing, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

"I still feel like, even after he's convicted, no one is really saying he's guilty," Kirby said. "Because if they were, why would the judge let him go home to a house full of young girls?" Kirby was 19 when she was abused sexually by Vallejo, who is her brother-in-law.

Low reasoned that Vallejo was not a flight risk because posted a cash bail, has eight children and works in the community. Judges can allow a convict to return home before sentencing if they believe the person poses no flight threat and is not a danger to those around them.

"I don't understand why that's a privilege he's given, when he's been convicted. He's been found guilty. It just, to me, says, 'Yeah, here a jury of his peers believed you, but this judge doesn't,'" said Kirby.

Sources: KUTV, The Salt Lake City Tribune / Photo credit: Utah County Jail via KUTV

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