‘No one is really saying he’s guilty,’ says victim after ex-Mormon bishop allowed to go free following sex crime convictions
By Jessica Miller, March 28, 2017, The Salt Lake Tribune
Moments after a jury found him guilty of nearly a dozen sex abuse-related crimes, Keith Robert Vallejo walked out of the Provo courthouse last month a free man.
Despite requests from a prosecutor to have him jailed until his April sentencing date, a Utah County judge instead allowed the former Mormon bishop to remain free on bail, and to go home to his wife and eight children.
After three days of testimony, a 4th District Court jury found Vallejo guilty of ten counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse and one count of object rape, a first-degree felony. Two women testified at the trial that he had inappropriately touched them during separate stays at his Provo home in 2013 and 2014.
"I still feel like, even after he's convicted, no one is really saying he's guilty," said Julia Kirby, who was 19 when Vallejo abused her. "Because if they were, why would the judge let him go home to a house full of young girls? I don't understand why that's a privilege he's given, when he's been convicted. He's been found guilty. It just, to me, says, 'Yeah, here a jury of his peers believed you, but this judge doesn't.' "
The now-23-year-old woman, who lives in West Virginia, said this week that when the jury returned their guilty verdict late in the evening on Feb. 17, she feared Vallejo, who is her brother-in-law, being free because she had to stay in Provo that night.
"We didn't know what he's capable of doing," she told The Tribune. "He's still going to be living at home with his eight kids. ... He could still be out walking around with no consequences."
After the verdicts were read, Deputy Utah County Attorney Ryan McBride cited state statute, which reads that, upon conviction, "the court shall order that the convicted defendant who is waiting imposition or execution of sentence be detained." The law, however, allows for a defendant to remain free if a judge finds "clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant will not flee and is not a danger to anyone in the community.
Fourth District Judge Thomas Low found that because Vallejo had posted a cash bail, has a large family and works in the community, he would not be a risk. The judge also ruled there would be "minimal damage" to the victims because they live out of state.
"It is clear that [the victims] have been heard and have been believed," the judge said, according to a recording of the hearing. "And if that's the closure they're seeking, that's closure. Watching a man being taken away in chains isn't the kind of closure the court is willing to endorse at this time."
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."