HOUSTON | In a case with vibes of the furor involving a Stanford University swimmer two years ago, advocates for sex-crime victims argue the plea bargain that enabled a former Baylor University fraternity president to stay out of jail is further failure by the legal system.
“What’s similar is that violence against women is not taken seriously by the legal system,” said Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who led the successful campaign to recall the judge in the swimmer’s case. “The handling of sexual assault in the criminal justice system has been inappropriate, and sort of shockingly so, for a really long time.”
In the Texas case, Jacob Walter Anderson, 23, had been charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old fellow Baylor student outside a fraternity party in 2016. The woman told police she was served punch and became disoriented. She claimed Anderson led her behind a tent and raped her while choking her.
Prosecutors offered Anderson a deal in which he pleaded no contest in October to unlawful restraint. State District Judge Ralph Strother sentenced him under the terms of the deal Monday to probation, counseling and a $400 fine. He will not have to register as a sex offender.
The woman’s lawyer, Vic Feazell, said she and her family learned about the plea bargain from reading the newspaper.
“He stole my body, virginity and power over my body,” the woman said in a statement she read in court Monday. She said the verdict shows that the justice system in McLennan County, where Baylor is located, is “severely broken.”
Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, said Anderson should have been sent to jail and required to register as a sex offender.
“File that under men protecting men instead of victims and women,” she said.
The judge, Anderson’s lawyers and prosecutors did not return calls for comment. But District Attorney Abel Reyna defended the plea bargain back in October, saying prosecutors “achieved the best result possible with the evidence at hand.” He said the evidence did not support the allegation that the victim may have been drugged.
Many were particularly outraged by the judge’s grant of probation to at least two other men accused of sexually assaulting Baylor students, as well as an email one of the prosecutors sent the woman’s lawyer in which she suggested jurors would take Anderson’s side because there was just one alleged victim.
“It’s my opinion that our jurors aren’t ready to blame rapists and not victims when there isn’t concrete proof of more than one victim,” prosecutor Hilary LaBorde wrote in her email, which was obtained by the Waco Tribune-Herald.