A civil rights group is filing a complaint against a Utah County Judge who called a convicted sex offender an “extraordinarily good man” at his sentencing hearing. The group wants the complaint to be a teaching moment for the criminal justice system.
Keith Vajello, a former bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was convicted in February of molesting two women who stayed at his home. But at his sentencing hearing last week, Fourth District Judge Thomas Lowe, addressed Vajello’s character, saying “great men sometimes do bad things”.
Mark Lawrence is director of the civil-rights group Restore Our Humanity. He says Low’s comments in the courtroom were insensitive to the victim. He’s hoping Utah's Judicial Conduct Commission will discipline Low.
“I would like to see this judge take some training in how to deal with survivors of sexual abuse, because it’s something that’s dramatically lacking in not only the judicial system in Utah but with police enforcement and in the legal community,” Lawrence says.
Democratic State Representative Brian King is chair of the Judicial Conduct Commission. He says he doubts that a statement from the bench like this will result in sanctions-pointing out that Low ordered Vajello to spend 15 years to life in prison.
“The actual sentence that was given from what I understand doesn’t give anybody reason to think that the judge abused his discretion under the circumstances of this case,” King says.
Judge Low is prohibited from speaking publicly about an ongoing case.