A former fraternity president at Baylor University who was accused of raping a woman at a party accepted a plea deal on Monday that allowed him to escape jail time and avoid registering as a sex offender, according to the Associated Press. Victims’ rights advocates have expressed outrage toward the case’s Texas judge, who has twice before approved probation for men accused of sexually assaulting Baylor students.
According to the AP, the unnamed woman, then 19, accused Jacob Anderson, 23, of raping her repeatedly at a 2016 party thrown by his fraternity. The woman said that after she was given punch that left her disoriented, Anderson took her behind a tent and assaulted her until she lost consciousness. Police reported that Anderson then left her alone in the backyard where she, having vomited on herself, could have choked to death.
Anderson was subsequently expelled from Baylor following a university investigation. In June 2018, he was charged with four counts of sexual assault, which would have carried two to 20 years in prison and up to $40,000 in fines, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But in October, prosecutors offered a plea deal that was harshly criticized by the alleged victim, her family, and much of the community. In exchange for the four counts of sexual assault, Anderson would be allowed to plead no contest—which means he would not admit guilt—to the lesser charge of unlawful restraint. Instead of jail time, the district attorney’s office recommended Anderson serve three years of deferred adjudication probation (which means the charge could be dismissed if he follows the terms of his probation), pay a $400 fine, and go to counseling.
According to the Star-Telegram, the prosecutor, Hilary LaBorde, defended the plea deal by saying conflicting statements and evidence made the allegations hard to prove and the no-contest deal was the best possible outcome. State District Judge Ralph Strother said Monday that much of the outrage from the public was misplaced and that many people reaching out to him were “not fully informed, misinformed, or totally uninformed.” The alleged victim’s attorney called the agreement a “sweetheart deal.” According to reports from local media, the woman, who had asked the judge to reject the plea deal and set a trial date so she could testify in court, began crying loudly.
According to the Star-Telegram, the accuser had said she was surprised by the plea deal and believed LaBorde had made it clear she believed Anderson would be found guilty. But LaBorde said in an email to the family that she had changed her mind after losing a similar recent rape case in court: “[The jury] engaged in a lot of victim blaming—and the behavior of that victim and [the alleged victim in this case] is very similar,” she wrote. “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.”
Strother has twice in the past sentenced men accused of rape to probation. In 2017, he sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to the 2013 rape of a former Baylor student to deferred probation, according to the AP. And earlier this year, he sentenced a man to felony probation for the sexual assault of a former Baylor student and allowed the man to serve his 30 days in jail on weekends. The alleged rape by Anderson would have occurred around the time the university was embroiled in a scandal over sexual assault allegations involving its football team that some victims claim went ignored.
More than 85,000 people have signed an online petition started by another Baylor student protesting the plea deal for Anderson. The accuser’s family released a statement that emphasized she felt she had been betrayed by the justice system. “I not only have to live with his rape and the repercussions of the rape, I have to live with the knowledge that the McLennan County justice system is severely broken,” the family statement quoted her as saying. “I have to live with the fact that after all these years and everything I have suffered, no justice was achieved.”