Utah judge under fire for calling convicted rapist a 'good man'

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Keith Robert VallejoImage source, Utah County Sheriff's Office
Image caption,
Keith Robert Vallejo is a former Mormon bishop

A judge in Utah who labelled a convicted rapist a "good man" has received a barrage of complaints.

Judge Thomas Low made the remarks at the sentencing hearing of Keith Robert Vallejo after a jury convicted him of sexual abuse and object rape.

"The court has no doubt that Mr Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man... but great men sometimes do bad things", Mr Low said.

The victim and civil rights groups have said they will file formal complaints.

Vallejo, a former Mormon bishop, was convicted of 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse and one of count of object rape, involving two victims.

In the controversial sentencing hearing, Judge Low said: "I want to make it clear that the court agrees with the verdict. I think the jury got it right."

In an emotional set of remarks punctuated by long pauses, Judge Low said that the letters written on behalf of Vallejo "were extraordinarily moving". He sentenced Vallejo to a minimum of 15 years, and up to life, with sentences to run concurrently.

'Why even bother?'

One victim, who said she would lodge a complaint over the remarks, told Utah's Deseret News that they "sent a message not just to me but to other people... that not everyone is going to listen to you, so why even bother?"

"People will still not believe you, people will still take others' sides, and in this case, take the side of the perpetrator," she said.

A Utah-based rights group, Restore Our Humanity, also said it would file a complaint against Judge Low for giving "glowing praise to the convicted sex predator."

Controversy also marred the case earlier this year, when Judge Low allowed Vallejo to remain free on bail until his sentencing, even though he had been found guilty by a jury, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Complaints about judges in the area are handled by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission, which told the Associated Press it had received about 120 complaints about the case to date.

A court spokesman told Deseret News that law enforcement had been contacted about the judge's safety as a precaution, but there was no credible threat.