Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sympathy for the devil in Provo...

"The court had no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinarily good man," Low said just moments before sentencing Keith Vallejo to prison for sexually abusing the two females. "But great men, sometimes do bad things," Low continued.

The above quote comes from an article I just read about a disturbing criminal case in Utah.  Fourth District Court Judge Thomas Low of Provo, Utah appeared to be visibly saddened as he sentenced former Latter-day Saint bishop Keith Vallejo to one-to-15 years in prison for second-degree felonies and a five-years-to-life term for object rape.

In February of this year, Vallejo, married with eight children, was convicted of sexually abusing two women who had stayed at his home in Provo in 2013 and 2014.  One of his victims, 23 year old Julia Kirby, is his sister-in-law.  Judge Low had some comforting words for Kirby, who was 19 years old when Vallejo abused her.

However, Low allowed Vallejo to spend time at home with his wife and children before finally ordering him to jail on March 30.  Vallejo was in jail until he was sentenced this week.  And then, right in front of Vallejo's victims, the judge offered bizarre sympathy for a man who sexually abused women in his home.  Judge Low referred to a rapist and molester as an "extraordinarily good man"... an extraordinarily good man who was convicted of sexually victimizing women while they slept in his home.  What is so "extraordinarily great" about a man who is capable of doing that?

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm not a fan of Mormonism.  And maybe if this had happened in a different place, religion wouldn't have mattered.  I don't pretend to know anything about Keith Vallejo, other than what I've read about this case.  However, the fact that he was a Mormon bishop in Provo tells me that he was probably well-regarded in his community until the allegations that he had committed sexual assault and rape came to light.  Low is apparently a graduate of BYU, which is located in Provo.  However, although most BYU students are LDS, it's unclear whether or not Judge Low is himself a Mormon.

I know many Mormons place much value and emphasis on community service and people who do good works.  I'm wondering if Judge Low thinks Vallejo is "great" because he served his church as a bishop and probably showed up for all the projects Mormons tend to do.  Does a person who "serves" and appears to be a law abiding, clean cut, church going man deserve accolades when he's being sentenced to prison after abusing women?  In my mind, that church going persona simply camouflages the monster within.    

It seems odd that Judge Low had so much compassion and regard for Vallejo, who was proven guilty of committing serious crimes against women, yet until very recently, women students at Brigham Young University could be expelled for being rape victims.  To its credit, last fall BYU changed its policy of investigating women for Honor Code violations if they report sexual assault.  While it's commendable when a judge recognizes that most human beings are capable of redemption, Judge Low's comments toward Vallejo-- specifically calling him an "extraordinarily good man" in front of Vallejo's victims-- is incredibly unprofessional and inappropriate.

I have not been to Utah, although I have heard that parts of it are stunning.  I know some parts of the state are more religious than others.  For instance, I would expect a different vibe in Salt Lake City than I would Provo.  Still, it seems like there's something weird in the water there.  People seem to have bizarre attitudes about sexual assault and rape.  I have seen several instances of men being excused for being sexually aggressive toward women, yet women are subjected to scorn and "investigations" if they dare to report sex crimes committed against them.

Just yesterday, I was reminded of another bizarre case in Utah that occurred in 2010.  In April 2010, 20 year old Stetson Hallam was a BYU student and home teacher who decided he would play a "prank" on a former female "friend".  Or, at least that's what he claimed happened.  As the story goes, Hallam told the woman that he had a gift for her and arranged to meet her in a laundry room.    

Hallam asked the woman to open a bin, reportedly large enough to accommodate a small person and with a lockable lid and handles.  When the woman opened the bin, Hallam attacked his "friend", using a stun gun to subdue her and trying unsuccessfully to handcuff her.  When he attempted to silence her cries with his hand, she bit his finger.  He got up and apologized, claiming it was an April Fool's joke.  She very correctly reported his actions to the authorities.

Later that year, Fourth District Judge Christine Johnson sentenced Hallam to prison after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and obstruction of justice.  Judge Johnson, at least, recognized the seriousness of Hallam's crime.  Hallam's attorney asked for jail time and probation, explaining that Hallam had depression and was trying to get treatment and citing his lack of a prior criminal record.  But Judge Johnson wasn't inclined to cut Hallam any slack.  She said, "It doesn't sound to me like you're saying, 'I shouldn't have done this;' you're saying you should have done this in a different way," 

The following year, Hallam was denied parole.  However, based on a Facebook account that I found, it appears that Hallam is now out of the joint.  Looking at his photo and the fact that he has an unusual name, it's pretty clear that it's the same guy.  He has few Facebook friends and doesn't look like he could be a convicted felon.  Indeed, I found a blog post from a guy who claims he was Hallam's BYU roommate and seems to think the sentence was much too harsh.  Below is a quote from the former roommie's blog post circa 2011...

Yes, he was gentle. And so, while another well-publicised Provo victim had her virtue insulted and her face bashed in with a brick, Stetson’s victim walked away with a broken trust and a bruised arm. That was not the doing of a violent or deranged man.

I haven’t seen his victim at school lately; maybe she has graduated and gone on with her life, as he is unable to do.


Forgive me for being obtuse, but I have a hard time thinking a guy who uses handcuffs and a stun gun in an "April Fool's prank" is a gentle soul.  Maybe he has some kind of psychological and emotional problems that could explain this behavior that was evidently out of the ordinary.  And hopefully, since it looks like he's now back in society, Hallam is reformed.  But I still wouldn't want to run into him in a dark alley.  Moreover, I'm sure his victim was extremely terrified and traumatized by the actions that led to her "broken trust and bruised arm".  

In a later post, Stetson's former roommate offers this comment...

I am sorry that I have nothing new on this topic. I ranted much in the last post, perhaps without sufficient appreciation of the strains placed on the legal system. The lady judge, wildly and fanatically feministic though she may be, probably tried her best given the conditions.

When a commenter calls him out for calling Judge Johnson a "lady judge", the blogger writes this:

Lady judge because she is a lady, and a judge, and that’s what those words mean (you’re welcome! Enjoy your stay in the English language.). Also, because lady judges are in the minority (the figure that pops up is 33% in the country), and this exceptionality invites specification. Also, above all, because my theory is that she gave a harsher sentence to a male in a gender-conflict case than I thought was warranted here. Maybe she fears male criminals. Maybe she hates them. Who knows? Anyway, she admitted that she could not comprehend his thinking, and if she thinks from inside a female bubble, she is properly viewed in terms of that bubble.

I don't know for certain, but this fellow is probably quite a bit younger than I am.  And yet he seems to think it's appropriate to refer to female judges as "lady judges" and has a bizarre sympathy for a man who violently attacked a woman.  Weird...  very, very weird.

I'm staying out of the Morridor.

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