April 19, 2017
To the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission
Regarding Utah Fourth District Court
Judge Thomas Low
Case Number 151401024 State Felony
Defendant: Vallejo, Keith Robert
Plaintiff: State of Utah
In the case, Judge Thomas Low in his sentencing hearing
'The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man. But great men, [long pause] sometimes do bad things.' [Judge Thomas Low in the sentencing hearing]
Vallejo was convicted by a jury in 10 felony counts of sexual assault against two young women both minors while in his trusted care.
This comment absolutely minimizes the extent and the degree of the defendant’s offenses. These crimes were not misdemeanors or victimless crimes that can be casually brushed off as “bad things”. These are crimes that violate human rights, civil rights and they are an outright disregard for the proportions of the perpetrators offense towards these young women.
This is a blatant violation of Canon 2; A JUDGE SHALL PERFORM THE DUTIES OF JUDICIAL OFFICE IMPARTIALLY, COMPETENTLY, AND DILIGENTLY.
2.3 Bias, Prejudice, and Harassment
[B] A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.
1. A judge who manifests bias or prejudice in a proceeding impairs the fairness of the proceeding and brings the judiciary into disrepute.
2. Examples of manifestations of bias or prejudice include but are not limited to epithets; slurs; demeaning nicknames; stereotyping; attempted humor based upon stereotypes; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts; suggestions of connections between race, ethnicity, or nationality and crime; and irrelevant references to personal characteristics. Even facial expressions and body language can convey to parties and lawyers in the proceeding, jurors, the media, and others an appearance of bias or prejudice. A judge must avoid conduct that may reasonably be perceived as prejudiced or biased.
2.4 External Influences on Judicial Conduct
[B] A judge shall not permit family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment.
Judge Low was clearly swayed by the some 50 character letters that were submitted to the court before sentencing. These letters were conceivably submitted by people writing in regards to the defendants’ service as a bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which he as allegedly released from after the leaders of the Church learned of the allegations. Although one could reasonably expect the Judge to take these into account when imposing the sentence, to verbally praise the defendant as an “extraordinarily good man” during the sentencing hearing is absolutely judicially inappropriate and shows bias towards the membership of the particular faith. One can only wonder if the hearing and sentencing results would have ended with a different tone had the defendant been Catholic, Jewish or other.
The defendant’s brother spoke in the hearing and compared the defendant to Jesus in making the argument that he was wrongly convicted. The defendant has still not acknowledged his guilt or showed any signs of admission of guilt. He maintains his innocence and clearly has no intentions of recompense to the victims and this is not the sign of an “extraordinarily good man” as Judge Low surmises. This Judge showed no inclination to encourage the defendant to show regret or remorse toward the victims. In an emotional and impassioned display he praised the defendant. This is a flagrant display of bias and a complete lack of independent judgment and a display of Judicial Conduct that is unacceptable to the general public, and therefore a huge assault to the administration of justice in Utah.
External Influences on Judicial Conduct (2.4) may also be brought into question regarding Judge Lows' decision to allow the defendant to be free and out of custody between time of verdict and sentencing. This allowed the defendant who had been convicted of 10 counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape, a first-degree felony, to be free until his sentencing hearing. Once again, this begs the question is the Judge being biased and showing poor judgement despite state statue, which reads that, upon conviction, “the court shall order that the convicted defendant who is waiting imposition or execution of sentence be detained.”
We acknowledge that this would be seen as circumstantial case to some people. Good people do make mistakes and commit crimes, and it’s not evidence of bias for a judge to acknowledge that a convicted criminal can be a decent person with redeeming qualities. However, this Judge showed a complete lack of empathy for the victims and showed a seeming identification only with the defendant.
Although some may see this as circumstantial evidence, the JCC would be shirking its responsibility if it did not draw reasonable and obvious conclusions from the evidence before it. The commission should very well take into consideration the level of public outcry over this incident as well. I would encourage the commission to carefully review the video provided here.
Jennifer Yim, Executive Director of the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission has reported over 150 complaints from Utah citizens regarding Judge Lows’ conduct and this shows that there is a serious issue with Utah’s judicial reputation.
The commission may wish to review the comments in the Salt Lake Tribune as well, to see the level of anger from the public.
Kirby said she found the judge's remarks offensive, and added that she felt Low was "thinking more about the guilty defendant and his family sitting in the stands."
Restore Our Humanity respectfully asks the commission to carefully review this complaint. The Utah Judicial reputation is at stake.
Extraordinarily Good Men do NOT repeatedly commit acts of rape and sexual abuse on young women who are entrusted to their care.
If any further information is required, please feel free to contact me at any time.
Director Restore Our Humanity