This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • A judge has reversed his decision to let a 43-year-old man remain free until his sentencing on multiple sex-abuse-related offenses.

Keith Robert Vallejo, who is slated to be sentenced April 12, was taken into custody Thursday at the conclusion of a hearing before 4th District Judge Thomas Low.

Low said he thought the guilty verdicts in the case showed Vallejo's victims had been heard and that the criminal justice system cared.

However, it appeared the message that came across was that the criminal justice system did not care — and that was not the message he intended to convey, the judge said.

A jury convicted Vallejo on Feb. 17 of 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, and one count of object rape, a first-degree felony. He could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

Two women testified at a three-day trial, saying Vallejo inappropriately touched them during separate stays at his Provo home in 2013 and 2014.

Despite the guilty verdict and requests from a prosecutor to have Vallejo jailed until sentencing, Low allowed the former Mormon bishop to remain free on $25,000 cash-only bail until his sentencing, and to go home to his wife and eight children.

Low found that Vallejo would not be a risk because he had posted a cash bail, has a large family and works in the community. The judge also ruled that there would be "minimal damage" to the victims because they live in other states.

"It is clear that [the victims] have been heard and have been believed," Low said, according to a recording of the Feb. 17 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."

Vallejo was accused of inappropriately touching then-19-year-old Julia Kirby in April 2013, when she stayed at his Provo home while she attended Brigham Young University. Kirby, who is Vallejo's sister-in-law and now lives in West Virginia, told police her brother-in-law groped her several times while she pretended to be asleep on his couch.

The Salt Lake Tribune does not generally identify victims of sexual abuse, but Kirby agreed to be named.

Vallejo also groped a second victim, she told police, while she was sleeping on a couch at his home in 2014, when she was 17 years old.

"I still feel like, even after he's convicted, no one is really saying he's guilty," Kirby told The Tribune this week. "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.' "

At Thursday's hearing, Deputy Utah County Attorney Ryan McBride argued that there was a "very high" risk Vallejo would flee now that he had been convicted, as well as a great risk he would sexually abuse someone else.

In addition, the two victims feared that they would run into Vallejo while he was free, McBride said.

Defense attorney Ed Brass countered that in the time Vallejo has been free — including the nearly two years between the filing of charges and the conviction — there have been no problems. His client has not made threats or had contact with the victims, said Brass, who also argued that there is no basis to revisit the release issue.

According to court records, a family member reported the abuse to police in January 2015. A lawyer with the firm that represents The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also reported the allegations at that time.

Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the LDS Church, has said Vallejo was released from his bishop duties as soon as local leaders learned of the allegations in 2015. He said the church supports the law enforcement authorities who investigated and prosecuted the case.

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

comments powered by Disqus