Can We Please Stop Referring to Sexual Predators as “Good People?”
You may remember that Donald Trump defended Bill O’Reilly last week against allegations of extreme sexual harassment. O’Reilly called Trump “a good person” who Trump doesn’t think “did anything wrong.” O’Reilly is accused of coercing several women who worked with Fox News to sleep with him by promising them career advancement, and then punishing those who turned him down. He has settled lawsuits with five women, totaling millions in payments. But, you know, he’s a solid dude.
This National news story has had an eerie echo in the Utah County sexual assault case against Keith Vallejo, a former Mormon bishop. Last month, a jury convicted Vallejo of ten counts of forcible sex abuse and one count of object rape. Vallejo sexually groped two women who were staying at his house against their will, including his own sister-in-law.
Despite nearly a dozen felony convictions and a legal presumption that felony convicts should be detained, Fourth District Judge Thomas Low decided to release Vallejo back to his home pending sentencing. Low reasoned:
Watching a man being taken away in chains isn’t the kind of closure the court is willing to endorse at this time.
A touching sentiment.
Vallejo’s victims, of course, took the Judge’s bizarre decision as implicit doubt of their testimony, despite the jury’s guilty verdict. “No one is really saying he’s guilty . . . because if they were, why would the judge let him go home?” asked one of the victims, quite reasonably.
After the Tribune reported this story, Judge Low reversed his decision and detained Vallejo, perhaps finally realizing that sticking your neck out in sympathy for a sexual predator isn’t really the best career move.
But at Vallejo’s sentencing hearing today, Judge Low’s conflicted feelings about Vallejo became even more evident. The Tribune reports that Low choked up and had to pause multiple times while issuing Vallejo’s prison sentence. Perhaps we could understand that reaction as remorse for what happened to the victims. But if that’s the way you were leaning, lean back:
“The court has no doubt that Mr. Vallejo is an extraordinary, good man. But great men,” the judge said Wednesday before taking a long pause, “sometimes do bad things.”
Good men might do bad things, but I’m pretty sure raping people is a disqualifying offense. “Good men” don’t rape, nor do they sexually harass. Powerful men do that stuff all the time, but not “good” men. Why is this such a hard concept for other powerful men to grasp?