Orange County Supervisors Join Recall Effort Against Judge

A recall effort against a judge who cut 15 years off a mandatory sentence for a convicted child rapist has been joined by three Orange County supervisors.

Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly sparked international outrage on April 3 when he sentenced the man to 10 years in prison rather than the state minimum of 25 years, saying it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.” In addition to his leniency, critics were struck by his statements during sentencing in which he said “there was no violence or callous disregard for (the victim’s) well-being.”

The suspect, 20-year-old Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto, was found guilty of sodomizing a 3-year-old relative.

Soon after the story went viral, media outlets revealed that the judge had shown similar leniency in a 2010 case involving a California Highway Patrol lieutenant. The officer was the subject of a sting operation in which he was caught trying to have sex with a fictitious 13-year-old girl. Judge Kelly sentenced him to just one year in jail, citing his career in law enforcement as a positive factor.

Supervisors Todd Spitzer, Lisa Bartlett, and Shawn Nelson called for the judge’s ouster during a press conference Thursday.

“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,” said Spitzer, who worked with Kelly as a county prosecutor.

Supervisor Michelle Steel also called for the judge to step down in a separate statement.

A recall would require the gathering of 90,000 signatures from registered Orange County voters within 160 days. Recall proponents have an uphill battle, as there has not been a successful recall of a judge within the last two decades.

Meanwhile, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said his office will appeal Kelly’s ruling.

Read more about the recall effort here.