A Utah Judge Told Two Sexual Assault Survivors Their Rapist Was A "Good Man"

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A Utah judge is facing severe criticism after praising a convicted rapist's character in front of his victims before sentencing him to prison. Fourth District Court Judge Thomas Low appeared to become emotional while sentencing former Mormon bishop Keith Robert Vallejo on Wednesday. The judge called Vallejo "an extraordinarily good man" in front of the two women he had been convicted of sexually assaulting. Both a civil rights group and one of Vallejo's alleged victims have come forward to complain about Judge Low's apparent disregard for sexual assault victims.

Bustle reached out to Low for comment, but Geoff Fattah, the communications director for the Utah State Courts tells Bustle in a statement, "The Utah Rules of Judicial Conduct preclude any of our judges from commenting on matters before them."

"The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man," an allegedly emotional Judge Low reportedly said in court Wednesday before handing down Vallejo's sentence. "But great men sometimes do bad things."

In a statement to the Associated Press, one of Vallejo's alleged victims criticized Judge Low for praising Vallejo's character with statements that could be seen as characteristic of trivializing sexual assault and abuse or deterring victims from coming forward. "He only cared about the person he was convicting, and I think that is really kind of despicable," the 23-year-old victim said. She told the Associated Press she planned to file an official complaint against Judge Low and she reportedly isn't the only one prepared to speak out.

Utah civil rights group Restore Our Humanity is also planning to lodge a complaint about Low. In a statement to local news channel KUTV, the group's head called Low's remarks "appalling," insensitive, and potentially re-victimizing. "This judge was clearly showing he was not independent here [and] is clearly showing favoritism towards the perpetrator," Lawrence said.

The Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission has also reported receiving complaints about both Low's praise of Vallejo and his controversial (and later reversed) decision to allow Vallejo to remain free until his sentencing in April after being convicted by a jury on Feb. 17. After much criticism, Judge Low reversed his decision to allow Vallejo to return to his home, wife, and children until his sentencing during a hearing March 30.

Vallejo, a former bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was convicted of sexually assaulting two women in his home in separate incidents in 2013 and 2014, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Judge Low sentenced Vallejo for one count of first-degree felony of object rape and for each of the 10 second-degree forcible sexual abuse felonies a jury had convicted him of.

The prosecutor in the case, Deputy County Attorney Ryan McBride, has also raised concerns that Judge Low's comments could impact other sexual assault victims by deterring them from speaking out for fear of being accused of tarnishing their assailant's reputation.

"Someone else sitting in the room who has been sexually abused, could feel like, boy if this is what it's going to be like for me then I'm not going to come forward," McBride told KUTV. "As I listened to that, I immediately knew this would be offensive to the victim who was in the court room."