Judge Thomas Low let Keith Robert Vallejo out of detention after jury convicted him of ten counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape
Complaints are running against a Utah judge who called a former Mormon bishop convicted of rape an extraordinary, good man who did something wrong, a Utah judicial oversight organization said on Friday.
About 40 emails, six voicemails and some Facebook messages complaining about Judge Thomas Low have come in since late March, said Jennifer Yim, executive director of the Utah judicial performance evaluation commission.
The complaints began after Low let Keith Robert Vallejo out of detention after a jury found him guilty of ten counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape.
But Yim said the majority of members of the complaints were filed after the Wednesday convicting hearing when Low seemed emotional as he convicted Vallejo to up to life in prison, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The court has no doubt that Mr Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man, Low said during the convicting. But great men sometimes do bad things. One of Vallejos victims said she was shocked by the judges sympathy, saying it felt like he cared more about Vallejo than the victims.
Low did not return a request for comment submitted through Utah court spokesman Geoff Fattah.
One victim was 19 when she said Vallejo, a relative, fondled her multiple times when she stayed at his home while attending Brigham Young University in 2013. A second victim told police Vallejo raped and fondled her while she slept on his sofa in 2014 when she was 17.
The abuse occurred in Provo, a Mormon stronghold that is home to BYU. Low attended BYU, where almost all students are Mormon, but it is not clear whether he is a member of the faith.
There was no indication that Low had any prior friendship or relationship with Vallejo, said Ryan McBride, the prosecutor on the lawsuit. A magistrate would have to disclose something like that, he said.
McBride called Lows comment inappropriate, and it they may have come in response to more than 50 character letters sent in about Vallejo. McBride said here supposes brother spoke at the hearing and compared Vallejo to Jesus in stimulating the argument that he is being erroneously convicted.
I dont think its wrong to acknowledge the good things that someone has done in “peoples lives”, said McBride. But I belief whenever you do that in a case like this, youve also got to say, but it doesnt forgive what youve done.
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Vallejo was released from his position as bishop after church presidents found out about the accusations.
In the faith, bishops are regular church members who lead their congregations for four to five years. The post is unpaid and part of the beliefs lay clergy structure that stimulates it different from many other religions.
Sexual assault victim proponents also expressed anger over the comments.
The signal that it sends to sexual violence survivors is that if you are interested in disclose, that were still going to treat your perpetrator as if theyre a good person, said Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.