Judge M. Marc Kelly (photo: H. Lorren Au Jr., Orange County Register)
An Orange County judge who reduced the sentence of a 20-year-old man convicted of anally raping a 3-year-old girl is coming under intense pressure to resign.
More than 55,600 people signed an online petition at Change.org asking Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly to step down for his April 3 sentencing of Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto to 10 years in prison, although the mandatory minimum sentence for such a crime is 25 years to life.
Judge Kelly said at the sentencing that the punishment was “grossly disproportionate” to the crime because “there was no violence or callous disregard for (the victim’s) well-being.” He called the longer sentence “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Rojano-Nieto admitted that he raped the girl, a relative, after she entered the garage where he was playing video games during a family gathering. He closed the garage door and covered her mouth to avoid detection while sodomizing and otherwise abusing her. Rojano-Nieto was implicated when the girl complained to her mother about a painful behind.
But the judge decided no harm, no foul. She “appears to be a happy healthy girl,” the judge said, “so it’s hard to gauge how this crime may affect her mental state in the future.”
But he was optimistic. “It certainly may [cause future harm], but I hope it does not. It doesn’t appear she suffered any serious violent physical injuries, and by all accounts she appears headed for a normal life.”
Rojano-Nieto was said to be “extremely remorseful,” and the judge may be, too.
The Orange County district attorney said he would appeal the sentence and three county supervisors called for Judge Kelly’s ouster on Thursday. A Facebook page calling for his resignation had 13,861 likes as of Thursday night.
OC Weekly reported that Kelly got some flack in 2010 for another questionable ruling in a case involving a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer. Lieutenant Stephen Robert Deck was snagged in a sting operation trying to pick up a 13-year-old girl. She was a decoy.
The district attorney wanted a four-year sentence, but Kelly gave Deck five years probation and a few months in jail, and ordered him to register as a sex-defender. His reasoning was:
“You had a weird sexual addition that bordered on perverse. It involved all kind of sexual activities and you are in need of serious treatment. . . . [But] you served in law enforcement and I think that has to account for something.”