Orange County residents have joined the fight against a Superior Court judge by saying his decision to lighten the sentence for a convicted child rapist shows a "callous disregard for the victims of a crime."
A petition signed by dozens of voters calls for Judge M. Marc Kelly's removal from office, the latest move to force him out after his decision to give Kevin Rojano-Nieto, 20, a 10-year prison sentence for sodomizing a 3-year-old relative. The minimum sentencing in the case was 25 years to life behind bars.
A group of crime victims presented the petition, a recall notice, to Kelly through a representative at the courthouse on Friday. The notice describes the judge as making "unacceptable and unilateral reductions" of sentences for those who are "convicted of heinous sex crimes against a minor or young child."
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The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted last month to call for his immediate resignation, but the board has no power to remove judges because Kelly is an elected official.
Kelly is described in the petition as putting "the public at risk" and exhibiting "an irrational and hazardous display of judgement" by easing punishments for anyone who has assaulted or raped a child.
The petition says that "replacing a woefully ineffective judge" will protect children and would warrant the cost of a local election.
Now, some 90,830 Orange County voters will need to sign a petition to force a recall election, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
The amount of signatures needed is equivalent to at least 20 percent of the number of votes that were cast in the last general election for the candidate with the least votes. The registrar's office will be hoping to get more than 127,000 signatures, or 30 to 40 percent, a spokeswoman told NBC4 on Friday.
Kelly sentenced Rojano-Nieto to a decade in prison in early April, citing the mandated state sentencing as "cruel and unusual punishment" for a man who came from a broken family and had been abused himself as a child.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas appealed Kelly's ruling last month, calling it "a horrendous crime" that he believes is illegal.
In Kelly’s nine-page analysis, he compared sentencing for similar and other offenses, and took into account a court-ordered psychological examination and a sentencing report that concluded Rojano-Nieto wasn't a true pedophile or sexual predator, and that he wouldn't pose a danger to society.
"How dare a sworn member of the judiciary tell the family and through their family a 3-year-old child that the sodomy was not brutal," Supervisor Todd Spitzer said earlier this month.