When a victim comes forward with their story, they expect the pain and trauma they have endured will be taken seriously in their quest for justice.
Yet when a young woman came forward and told the painful details of what her attacker did to her, prosecutors offered him a plea deal instead of giving the survivor a real chance for justice. In the wake of the controversial decision, however, thousands have come together demanding a different kind of justice.
The Fraternity Party
When a then 19-year-old sophomore at Baylor University, a private Christian university in Waco, Texas, returned to school for her spring semester in 2016, she was thrilled to be back on campus with her friends. However, her life was turned upside down several weeks after the semester began. On February 21, 2016, the sophomore student went to an off-campus party hosted by Baylor’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity. The student thought the party would be a lot of fun. Instead, the night turned into a living nightmare that has haunted her ever since.
A Kind Offer
According to the student, the trouble all started shortly after she arrived. The student later told police that she started feeling disoriented and very confused after drinking some punch that was offered to her at the party. At that point, Jacob Walter Anderson, a fellow sophomore and president of Phi Delta Theta, offered to help her.
Watler led the 19-year-old girl off to a secluded area telling her that she would be able to get some air. In reality, however, it is alleged that Anderson just wanted to get the 19-year-old somewhere private so that he could attack her. According to the girl, that’s exactly what happened once they were alone. “On February 21, 2016, when I was a 19-year-old, Sophomore at Baylor University, Jacob Walter Anderson took me to a secluded area behind a tent and proceeded to violently and repeatedly rape me,” the victim said later in court in a statement reported by KWKT.
“He repeatedly raped me orally and (vaginally) while choking me, gagging me and physically forcing my body into positions so he could continue to rape me. I had no control over my body and no way to stop him,” the victim said. “When I collapsed on the ground he pulled down his pants and shoved his penis in my mouth and down my throat gagging me.”
“When he forcefully picked me up and shoved me into a wall to rape me vaginally from behind he calmly and coldly said, ‘It’s fine. You’re fine.’ When I tried to pull up my pants or sit he shoved me to the ground and shoved his penis back down my throat and continued to choke me,” the victim said about the violent attack.
Left To Die
“When he forced me up again and started to rape me vaginally again I blacked out permanently. When I was completely unconscious he dumped me face down in the dirt and left me there to die. He had taken what he wanted, had proven his power over my body. He then walked home and went to bed without a second thought to the ravaged, half dead woman he had left behind,” the victim said.
The Fight For Justice Begins
After coming to the police with the allegations, police eventually arrested Anderson and charged him with four counts of sexual assault. If convicted of the charges, Anderson faced years in prison and would also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
A Brave Decision
While it was painful to relive what Anderson did to her by retelling what happened that February night, the victim hoped it would all be worth it to get justice for what happened. She also hoped it would save someone else from becoming Anderson’s next victim.
The Plea Deal
In December of 2018, however, Walter made a deal with prosecutors. As part of the deal, Anderson pleaded no contest to one charge of unlawful restraint. The charge is a third-degree felony that carries up to 10 years in prison as punishment. When the victim and her family found out about the plea deal in the media, they begged the judge to reject the deal and proceed with a trial.
Unfortunately, 19th District Court Judge Ralph Strother accepted the deal and killed any chance the victim had of getting justice in a trial. Strother, who has a history of being lenient with accused rapists, sentenced Anderson to just three years of probation instead of a jail sentence.
Anderson also must pay a $400 fine and must go to counseling. If Anderson completes his probation and follows the conditions of his sentence, Strother ruled Anderson’s criminal record will be expunged. In addition, Anderson will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Defending The Outcome
In the wake of the plea deal and sentencing, people around the country have slammed the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office as well as Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde. However, LaBorde has defended the sentence and claimed some of the victim’s accusations couldn’t be proved. “Conflicting evidence and statements exist in this case making the original allegation difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” LaBorde told CBS News.
Blaming The Victim
Once word of the plea deal went public, LaBorde wrote a letter to the victim explaining why she agreed to a plea. In the letter, LaBorde claims the case wasn’t strong enough since it was the only time Anderson had ever been accused. LaBorde claimed the jury would likely blame the victim instead of Anderson. “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,” LaBorde wrote in the letter.
A Similar Case
She went on to explain she recently tried a similar but stronger case where she lost and the rapist was acquitted. “In light of the similarities between the cases, it’s my opinion it would be worse to try Anderson and lose and have the entire matter wiped from his criminal history than to accept this plea offer. Not to mention the emotional damage [this victim] would have to deal with if she had to testify and then felt the jury thought she was a liar,” she wrote.
Blaming Her Virginity
In the other case, LaBorde explained that jurors said the defendant didn’t ‘look like a rapist’. Other jurors in that former case also said DNA in the victim’s underwear didn’t prove anything. LaBorde also claimed that because this victim had been a virgin at the time Anderson allegedly raped her, it actually hurt her case. “To speak frankly as to the injuries in [the] Anderson [case], the research suggests that victims with no sexual experience are more likely to be injured because a sexual encounter is their first. So medically speaking, [this victim’s] innocence and lack of experience makes the medical evidence less helpful.”
The Victim’s Impact Statement
In the victim’s impact statement, the victim expressed her outrage at the sentencing. “I am devastated by your decision to let my rapist Jacob Walter Anderson go free without any punishment. Rape is a violent crime that alters the victim’s life and the life of everyone around them forever. He stole many things from me the night he raped me. I will never be the same again,” she said. “Jacob Walter Anderson. It must be horrible to be you. 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.”
A Rapist Goes Free
“I have to live with the fact that after all these years and everything I have suffered, no justice was achieved. I have to live with the fact that my rapist will go home smiling and happy and laughing at me. He stole my body, virginity, and power over my body and you let him keep it for all eternity,” the victim said.
Slamming The Cowards
“Jacob Anderson will most likely rape again. He is now free to roam society, stalk women and no one will know he is a sex offender,” said the victim, who also slammed LaBorde and District Attorney Abel Reyna for not having the courage to face her after the sentencing. ”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. You both will have to live with this decision to let a rapist run free in society without any warning to future victims.”
While the courts failed the victim, more than 30,000 outraged people signed a petition to get Anderson, who left Baylor University after the attack and enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas, banned from UT Dallas. “There is nothing more important at UT Dallas than the safety and security of our students,” university President Richard Benson said in a statement in response to the petition. “Two years ago we admitted a student without knowing their legal history.”
Another Form Of Justice
“Based on recent court action and other information over the last several days, that student will not participate in UTD commencement activities, will not attend UT Dallas graduate school and will not be present on campus as a student or a guest,” Benson said about his decision to ban Anderson from the school. “I am grateful to the UT Dallas students, faculty and other community members who have shared their concerns, disappointments, and outrage over this student’s presence on our campus.”