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Ex-frat president at Baylor gets no jail time in rape case as judge accepts plea deal

Fort Worth Star-Telegram logoFort Worth Star-Telegram 12/11/2018 By Mitch Mitchell and Kaley Johnson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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WACO, Texas - A judge accepted the controversial plea deal for a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of sexual assault, granting Jacob Walter Anderson no jail time, according to a representative for State District Judge Ralph Strother. He will not have to register as a sex offender.

Strother made the decision on the deal at a hearing in Waco on Monday.

Anderson, 23, of Garland, was accused of raping a 19-year-old student, referred to as Donna Doe in court documents, at a Phi Delta Theta party in 2016. He was arrested, expelled from the university and, in June 2018, indicted on four counts of sexual assault.

On Oct. 15, Anderson was offered a deal that would result in probation and counseling but no jail time, sparking declarations of outrage and protests in the community.

a person posing for the camera: A judge accepted the controversial plea deal for a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of sexual assault, granting Jacob Walter Anderson no jail time, according to a representative for State District Judge Ralph Strother. (McLennan County Sheriff's Department/TNS © MCLENNAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPART/MCLENNAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPART/TNS A judge accepted the controversial plea deal for a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of sexual assault, granting Jacob Walter Anderson no jail time, according to a representative for State District Judge Ralph Strother. (McLennan County Sheriff's Department/TNS Under the deal, Anderson agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of felony restraint. In exchange, the district attorney's office agreed to dismiss the four sexual assault charges he was indicted on. The deal includes a recommended three years of deferred adjudication probation, a $400 fine and psychological, alcohol and substance abuse counseling for Anderson, according to a representative with the McLennan County District Attorney's Office.

Anderson has waived any right to appeal the ruling, according to the McLennan County district clerk's office.

Those granted deferred adjudication probation typically do not have the conviction placed on their record if they do not violate any of the conditions of their probation during the probationary term.

Attorney Vic Feazell called the plea agreement "a sweetheart of a deal" and said he had not seen anything like Anderson's plea in his years as an attorney and district attorney.

"I've been at this a long time and I've never seen anything like this," Feazell said. "It stinks to high hell."

Anderson originally faced two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the four sexual assault charges, according to Texas state law.

Feazell said the plea deal came as a shock to him and Doe's family, who said in a statement they were reassured by Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde that the case against Anderson was "cut and dry" and he would "definitely be convicted."

Donna Doe said Anderson raped her repeatedly at a frat party in 2016 when she was a sophomore at Baylor. In a lawsuit against the fraternity, she said she took a cup of punch at the party and immediately felt woozy after drinking it. Anderson led her behind a tent and assaulted her, she said.

In a statement to police, Doe said she blacked out and woke up alone, choking on her own vomit.

"By the grace of God I am alive today to fight this injustice," Doe wrote in a victim impact statement to Judge Strother. "One breath either way and Jacob Walter Anderson would be on trial for murder."

In her statement, Doe stressed her concern that if Anderson did not have to register as a sex offender, he may assault another woman.

"What will they tell the next victim when she questions why she did not know Jacob Anderson was a sex offender? How does she think the girls in his current College classes feel knowing they could have been his next victim?" she wrote in her impact statement. "I am writing this letter to hold the DA accountable to do their job and seek justice. To hold Jacob Anderson accountable for his crimes. He raped me. He almost killed me."

Doe said she and her family were blindsided by the plea deal by LaBorde, who Doe said assured them Anderson would be convicted.

In an email LaBorde sent the family, LaBorde says she offered the plea deal after losing a recent rape case in court. She drew similarities between Doe's case and the other case and said she feared Anderson would be found not guilty.

"(The jury) engaged in a lot of victim blaming - and the behavior of that victim and (Doe) is very similar," she said. "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."

However, Doe wrote her case is not the same as LaBorde's prior case and her case against Anderson should go to trial.

"I wonder if other women in Waco will report their rapes if Jacob Anderson gets this plea? Why would they bother?" Doe wrote.

Since the plea deal was introduced, 85,000 people have signed an online petition against it started by fellow Baylor student Erin Albin.

"I think if that were to go through, it sends a message to all women," Albin said about the plea offer in a previous interview. "It says sexual assault doesn't matter and it doesn't matter if someone assaults you. And if you have a certain status in society, you can get away with sexual assault."

Katharine Esser, assistant director of Research and Training at the Women's Center of Tarrant County, worries that outcomes in cases like this could silence victims of sexual violence.

People look to the criminal justice system to keep them safe and deliver justice and that system has to be held accountable, Esser said. Perhaps the #MeToo movement has made stories like this that might not have gotten much news coverage in the past too important to ignore, Esser said.

"Communities need to find ways to become involved so eventually we don't have sexual assault as a public health issue," Esser said. "Tarrant County has some promising things going on in the district attorney's intimate partner violence unit. We are training with them so that these systems are more trauma informed and victim friendly."

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