If one were to describe a convicted rapist- “extraordinarily good man” should not be on the list of descriptors. Judge Thomas Low of Utah however, has used these very words to describe Keith Robert Vallejo a man facing up to life in prison after a jury of his peers found him guilty of 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape. The judge is under fire for seemingly getting emotional during the hearing and directing sympathy towards the convicted rapist as opposed to the victims after hearing some 50 character references submitted on Vallejo’s behalf.
As reported by The Grio:
According to Jennifer Yim, executive director of the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, Low seemed to get emotional during the hearing and expressed his sympathy toward Vallejo.
The sympathy likely came from more than 50 character letters that had been submitted on Vallejo’s behalf during the trial extolling his good deeds. Vallejo was once a bishop in the Mormon faith, which may have contributed to the sympathy as well. Mormon bishops are unpaid and serve from four to five years as part of the lay clergy of the faith and are regular church members called from within the congregation to lead for a short time.
Victims of Vallejo were shocked that the judge would even lend a sympathetic ear to their rapist, expressing how they felt neglected and that the judge did not care about them.
Julia Kirby, who claimed that at 19 she was groped by Vallejo while she was staying with him while attending Brigham Young University in 2013, said that she was shocked to hear the judge’s praise of the convicted rapist.
“That judge didn’t care about me,” she said Friday. “He only cared about the person he was convicting, and I think that is really kind of despicable.”
“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.
“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.
Do you agree with Bitton that the message the judge is sending to survivors is that their perpetrators will still be treated as a good people even upon their conviction? Is praising a perpetrator akin to victim blaming, alluding to the fact that despite their crime these people are good people at heart? Will this impede survivors from coming forward, when the reporting rate of sexual assaults is already dismally low? Share you thoughts in the comments section below.