Repercussions unclear for judge after comments on rape case

"Innocent until proven guilty" is a staple of the American justice system.

Julia Kirby - who gave the Associated Press permission to publish her name - was 19 years old when a relative groped her. But Kirby told the Salt Lake Tribune at the time that she was afraid to visit her family in Provo and that she also feared for Vallejo's family, which includes several young daughters.

Two women testified at the trial that the then-bishop had inappropriately touched them while they were staying at his Provo home in 2013 and 2014.

A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Vallejo was released from his position as bishop after church leaders found out about the accusations.

As for Vallejo, he has refused to admit guilt, stating, "The justice system is amusing". McBride said the suspect's brother spoke at the hearing and compared Vallejo to Jesus in making the argument that he is being wrongly convicted. 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.

"Judge Low's comments are vile and inexcusable, but they reflect a larger problem with the Utah judiciary", said Troy Williams, of Equality Utah, which pushes for equal rights for the LGBT community. However, the judge who presided over the case is now the one facing some serious heat.

Jennifer Yim said Friday that she has received about 40 emails, six voicemails and Facebook messages about Judge Thomas Low.

However, Yim told the AP that the majority of complaints pertaining to Low virtually poured in after Vallejo's sentencing. He said the moment he heard the comments from the judge it raised alarms. The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man and the letters written on his behalf were extraordinarily moving.

But one of the victims in the case, Julia Kirby, said Monday that after years of hiding what had happened to her and then wading through almost a year of hearings in the case, Low's remarks at the hearing were painful and disheartening. Low would have to disclose something like that, he said.

"I don't think it's wrong to acknowledge the good things that someone has done in their lives".

And McBride's sentiment is one that many people agree with. Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said that Low's comment sends a signal to survivors of sexual violence that if they choose to speak up and disclose what happened to them, that their perpetrator is still going to be looked upon as if they are a good person.

Due to Low's comments and actions throughout Vallejo's hearing, Kirby is reportedly planning on filing an official complaint against him in pursuit of his removal from the bench.

  • Larry Hoffman