Provo, Utah — UPDATE: Civil rights group to file judicial complaint against judge who praised rapist during sentencing
(KUTV) — Fourth District Court Judge Thomas Low had glowing praise for a man who was convicted of molesting two female relatives while they stayed at his home three years ago.
"The court had no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man," Low said just moments before sentencing Keith Vallejo to prison for sexually abusing the two females. "But great men, sometimes do bad things," Low continued.
During the sentencing, Low appeared to be emotional as he read the sentence. His praise came as at least one of the victims, Julia Kirby, sat in the court room.
"For him to say that in a court room in front the victim who was abused and raped by this man, that he is a great person, to me was unacceptable and unprofessional," she told 2News by phone.
Turner Bitton, with The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said when a person in a position like Low's praises the predator, he essentially blames the victim.
"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," Bitton said.
Vallejo, who maintained his innocence throughout the trial, was convicted in February of one first-degree felony of object rape and 10 second-degree felonies of forcible sexual abuse.
For the object rape conviction, Vallejo was given a sentence of five-years-to-life. He was also given concurrent one-to-15 year sentences for all 10 forcible sexual abuse convictions.
Kirby said the judge had an opportunity to confront Vallejo about his refusal to take responsibility but didn't do it.
"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.
This is the second time Low has given Vallejo unusual treatment in this case. In February, Vallejo was convicted in a jury trial, but in an unexpected twist, Low allowed the former bishop to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remain out of custody until his sentencing two months later.
Kirby did have praise for the jury in the case.
"Despite the fact that Judge Low may not have truly heard me out, they (the jury) did, and I've been wanting to find a way to thank them for that," Kirby said. "They heard me and they heard the other victim and they believed us, I feel that they at least should receive credit for that."
Low did not respond to multiple requests for comment.