Former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Anderson walks out of the courtroom in Waco, Tex., on Monday. (Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald/AP)
A former fraternity president at Baylor University who had been accused of rape will not serve any jail time nor be forced to register as a sex offender after a judge accepted the plea deal he had been offered by Texas prosecutors, according to news reports.
Jacob Anderson, 23, had been charged with four counts of sexual assault after he was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman at a 2016 party thrown by Phi Delta Theta, the fraternity chapter of which he was president, at the school in Waco, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
But earlier this year, the McLennan County district attorney’s office offered him a plea deal that quickly became the subject of bitter outcry from both the victim and her family, as well as many others paying attention to the case.
The district attorney’s office dismissed the four counts of sexual assault in exchange for a lesser charge of unlawful restraint, according to news reports. And it recommended that Anderson serve three years of deferred adjudication probation — meaning the charge could eventually be dismissed if he doesn’t violate the terms of his probation — be fined $400 and go to counseling in lieu of jail time, according to news reports.
The case’s closure Monday was punctuated by sobs from the victim, who had asked the judge to reject the plea offer and set a trial date so she could testify in court, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.
In a victim impact statement she read later, she called out the assistant district attorney on the case, Hilary LaBorde, and McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, neither of whom attended the hearing, the Tribune-Herald reported.
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“If I had the courage to come back to Waco and face my rapist and testify, you could at least have had enough respect for me to show up today,” she said. “You both will have to live with this decision to let a rapist run free in society without any warning to future victims.”
And she had harsh words for Anderson.
“It must be horrible to be you,” she said, the newspaper reported. “To know what you did to me. To know you are a rapist. To know that you almost killed me. To know that you ruined my life, stole my virginity and stole many other things from me.”
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According to the Star-Telegram, the woman said she had taken some punch at the party and immediately felt woozy after drinking it. Anderson led her behind a tent and assaulted her, she said, the Star-Telegram reported.
Mark Daniel, one of Anderson’s lawyers, did not respond to messages seeking comment. Anderson was indicted in June; he was also expelled from Baylor.
The victim told police that she woke up choking on her own vomit, the newspaper reported.
“By the grace of God I am alive today to fight this injustice,” the victim wrote in her impact statement. “One breath either way and Jacob Walter Anderson would be on trial for murder.”
LaBorde and Reyna did not respond to requests for comment sent to their email addresses. The district attorney’s office released a statement from LaBorde to reporters that said she believed the case would have been hard to prove.
“Conflicting evidence and statements exist in this case making the original allegation difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement read, according to the Star-Telegram. “As a prosecutor, my goal is no more victims. I believe that is best accomplished when there is a consequence rather than an acquittal.”
She also said that “there are many facts that the public does not have,” without giving more details.
In an email to the victim and her family that local news outlets reported, LaBorde brought up another case she said was similar that had resulted in an acquittal.
“[The jury] engaged in a lot of victim blaming — and the behavior of that victim and [this victim] is very similar,” she wrote, according to local news outlets. “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.”
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The plea, at the time it was announced, drew widespread outcry. More than 85,000 people have signed a digital petition expressing “outrage” at the deal. Calls and letters have flooded the office of the judge, Ralph Strother.
And the victim and her family were outspoken in their anger that the case would not go to a trial, calling the deal “an absolute travesty.”
On Monday, Strother told the court that comments about the case made on social media lacked crucial information.
“I have been provided material from every perspective,” Strother said, according to the Baylor Lariat, the university’s student newspaper. “I have as good of information as possible from all perspectives of the matter. Being human, I can make wrong decisions. However, I cannot be uncertain about the decisions that I make.”
Vic Feazell, the victim’s attorney, told the Star-Telegram that he had never seen anything like the deal Anderson was offered.
“It stinks to high hell,” he said.
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