Utah judge: Con­victed ex-bishop a ‘good man’

The Commercial Appeal - - Nation/world - HALLIE GOLDEN

PROVO, Utah - 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 last 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 last week.

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,” McBride said. “But I think when­ever you do that in a case like this, you’ve also got to say, ‘But it doesn’t ex­cuse done.’ ”

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. what you’ve

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

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