Judge at rape sentencing: Ex-Mormon bishop no doubt is an ‘extraordinarily good man’

In this Thursday, March 30, 2017, photo, Keith Vallejo leaves the courtroom, in Provo, Utah. A Utah judge sentencing the former Mormon bishop said the convicted rapist was an "extraordinary, good man" who did something wrong. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Judge Thomas Low appeared to become emotional on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, when he sentenced Vallejo to up to life in prison for 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape. | Photo by Dominic Valente/Daily Herald via AP, Pool; St. George News

PROVO, Utah (AP) — A woman says she is shocked by a Utah judge’s comments in which he called a former Mormon bishop convicted of sexually assaulting her a “good man” during his sentencing hearing.

Julia Kirby said Friday that Judge Thomas Low appeared to care more for her attacker than he did about her.

“He only cared about the person he was convicting, and I think that is really kind of despicable,” said the 23-year-old Kirby, who has given The Associated Press permission to publish her name

Low sentenced Keith Robert Vallejo to up to life in prison this week after a jury found him guilty of 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape.

Kirby said she was 19 when Vallejo, a relative, groped her multiple times when she stayed at his house while attending Brigham Young University in 2013.

Kirby plans to file an official complaint against Low in the hopes of getting him removed as a judge.

Low is facing a deluge of complaints after saying “The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man …. But great men sometimes do bad things.”

The criticism began around the time Low freed Vallejo from custody after a jury convicted him, said Jennifer Yim, executive director of the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.

But Yim said most of the roughly 40 emails, six voicemails and some Facebook messages received since late March came after Low sentenced Vallejo this week and seemed to get emotional during the hearing.

Ryan McBride, the prosecutor on the case, said Low’s comments were inappropriate and said it may have come in response to more than 50 character letters about Vallejo, most of them detailing the good things he has done. The defendant’s brother spoke at the hearing and compared Vallejo to Jesus in making the argument that he was wrongly convicted, McBride said.

“I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge the good things that someone has done in their lives,” the prosecutor said. “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.’ ”

This photo provided by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office shows Keith Robert Vallejo. A judge in heavily Mormon Utah who was sentencing the former church bishop for rape called the defendant an “extraordinary, good man” who did something wrong. Judge Thomas Low appeared to become emotional when he sentenced Vallejo on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, to up to life in prison for 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. | Photo by Utah County Sheriff’s Office, via AP, St. George News

Low declined comment through a court spokesman.

“I maintain my innocence,” Vallejo said during the hearing after a brief comment on how the justice system bullies people into confessing.

The abuse occurred in Provo, a Mormon stronghold that is home to Brigham Young University. Low attended the school, where almost all students are Mormon, but it is not clear whether he is a member of the faith.

There was no indication that the judge had any prior relationship with Vallejo, McBride said. Low would have to disclose something like that, he said.

In the faith, bishops are regular church members who lead their congregations for four to five years. The position is unpaid and part of the religion’s lay clergy structure that makes it different from many other religions.

Low’s comments also sparked outrage Friday from advocates for sexual assault victims.

“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.

Utah judge at rape sentencing: Ex-Mormon bishop a ‘good man’

Written by HALLIE GOLDEN, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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23 Comments

  • Craig April 17, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I think these comments are inappropriate. He should have soothed the young lady abused.

  • ladybugavenger April 17, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Disgusting! It would be appropriate for rainbow dash to call this male a scumbag. Heck, the judge is a scumbag for the comment he made….there is nothing good about this rapist. He covered his evilness up for a while but he’s exposed for his true self. No longer wonder why the plygs get away with molestation and rape, it’s because of people and judges like this one that call evil good and good, evil.

  • comments April 17, 2017 at 11:51 am

    is he playin’ air guitar in that photo or what?

  • Real Life April 17, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Of course good ol’ Joe Smith and Bangem Young would have dissaproved of this bishop’s action. She is way too old.

    • johncmiller April 17, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Yep. Say hateful things while you hide behind your precious fake name. Cyber bullying is for champs in your “real life.”

      • 42214 April 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm

        I think the act of rape is more hateful than a snarky comment. You are way to eager to defend the Bishop rapist. Your underwear is showing.

        • NikkiMicheals April 18, 2017 at 2:46 am

          Get Um Girl ??

          • ladybugavenger April 19, 2017 at 7:56 pm

            I thought 42214 was a guy…

      • Brian Glaze April 17, 2017 at 6:58 pm

        Here’s my name loser. Brian L Glaze
        You are defending a church who’s founding was based upon illegal marriages to young girls and rape. Look it up moron. This “extraordinary person” is, yes, no better than the founders of that supremely nasty religion. Rape. Rape buddy. Who in their right, sane mind defends a rapist. A moron judge that believes in a book of fabricated nonsense for one. Absolutely revolting. Beyond words

      • Real Life April 17, 2017 at 9:32 pm

        Well John C. Miller, I would say the word hateful should be changed with the word observant. Continue on your happy little world, where LDS “prophets” of Christ, commit child rape and hide in the name of God. A fine example is Colorado City. ANYWHERE else, these pedophiles would be taken out, like they should. But not here in good old Southern Utah. Why? Because they follow the same book that you do, written and carried on by two sexual deviants.

  • comments April 17, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    But in all seriousness member of The One True Church™ actually can and do get away with a lot more than non-morms. It’s important to be a paid-in-full member so u got that certain little card called a recommend. It’s very important. A lot of them child rapists up in short creek are still running loose because of their protected status under mormon doctrine. It might be harder for them to rape children now because they are under more scrutiny from the public, but I have a feeling it still goes on and is tolerated or encouraged by the f-LDS mormon religion up there.

    Pro-tip: if you get pulled over for a traffic violation hand the cop both your temple recommend and licence when he asks for your license. I’m not a paid member so i’ve never been able to do it, but very very good chance it will get u just a verbal or written warning and no ticket.

    • johncmiller April 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Your assumption is disgusting. Good thing you can hide behind your fake name. What a coward.

      • ladybugavenger April 17, 2017 at 5:01 pm

        Everyone knows it’s not an assumption, it’s true. Those boys that hurt that girl-nothing happened. Hurricane mom forgets baby in hot car-nothing happens (oh wait! #fundraiser) good ole faithful members

        • ladybugavenger April 18, 2017 at 7:45 am

          Oh and the flds million dollar food stamp fraud case…hmmmmm

      • comments April 17, 2017 at 5:39 pm

        So I should put my full name, address, and phone # after each post? If you think my opinion is wrong ur more than welcome to refute it and post ur own.

        I’m not sure I’d get any kind of leniency if I ever broke the law b/c I’m not a paid-in-full member. I don’t think I’ve actually paid them anything in my life, but I been a member on the books since 8 years old. Fun times I guess, being a member.

      • 42214 April 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        John, if you keep spewing stupidity you should get a fictitious name too. You’re a joke.

  • dumbengineer April 17, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Clearly the comments were poorly chosen, but at least the guy received a reasonably severe sentence. I would rather hear poorly chosen comments and see a reasonable sentence rather than hear a great set of words accompanied by a light sentence.

    • ladybugavenger April 17, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      True, it would have sucked if the judge went against the guidelines. He would have lost his judge job tho

    • jaltair April 17, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      I’m sure the jury was the determining factor, the law is the law. The judge’s comments were horrible. The man who was “found” guilty by jury is a “leopard” Christian; i.e. showing his spots.

  • jaltair April 17, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    This takes me back 37 years when women couldn’t file a claim of rape because the woman was put on trial. This statement was appalling and disgusting, and if the judge is elected he needs to be recalled. UT, don’t go backward!

  • utahdiablo April 17, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    Contact US AG Jeff Sessions about the FLDS and the 12 Million in welfare fraud costing them only $100 fine per defendant….the more people that contact his office, the sooner this crap ends

  • NikkiMicheals April 18, 2017 at 2:51 am

    It don’t matter what title a man has or once had it is never okay to sexually abuse anybody especially if your a man of God!! Y’all sex offenders who hide behind a title are turning belief in the lord a complete joke!!

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