By Rewon Shimray | Staff Writer and Brooke Hill | News Editor
Former Phi Delta Theta president Jacob Walter Anderson, who was indicted on four counts of sexual assault in 2016, pleaded no contest Monday to one charge of unlawful restraint in return for the dismissal of his former charges Monday.
Under the agreement, Anderson would not be required to go to prison nor register as a sex offender. Instead, his sentence would be three years of probation, a $400 fine and required counseling.
Unlawful restraint can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, a state jail felony, or as a third-degree felony. Cases in which the offender places the victim in serious risk of bodily danger is considered a felony of the third degree. Anderson’s plea agreement for a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year jail time and a maximum $4,000 fine, whereas a third-degree felony would be up to 10-year jail time and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Vic Feazell, the victim’s criminal suit attorney and former McLennan County district attorney, called it a “sweetheart deal.”
“It sends the wrong message to other young women who are wondering whether or not to report sexual assault, and I hope young women will continue to report sexual assault and not let this dissuade them,” Feazell said.
Feazell said Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District ordered a pre-sentence investigation by the probation department. Following the completion of the investigation, Strother will make a final determination on Anderson’s sentencing in a hearing to be scheduled in six weeks.
“[The pre-sentence investigation] is the time when anyone who may have information about Mr. Anderson should reach out to the probation department and tell them. If he has assaulted anyone else, they need to know about it,” Feazell said.
Anderson was indicted in March 2016 after the rape of a woman at an off-campus Phi Delta Theta fraternity party on Feb. 21, 2016. The woman was given a drink, became “disoriented and very confused,” then Anderson led her to a secluded area outside of the party, the affidavit states. The report said she was then forced to the ground, raped multiple times, blacked out and woke up in her vomit. Her rape was verified by a sexual assault nurse examiner at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center. The family’s statement said the victim “immediately reported it to the police and many other authorities.”
A criminal trial could be scheduled, if the judge rejects the plea bargain and Anderson consequently withdraws his no-contest plea, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.
The woman called the plea agreement “an absolute travesty” in a statement Monday.
“By agreeing to this plea, Hilary LaBorde and the McLennan County DA office have allowed that rape is no longer a crime in Texas,” the statement from the victim’s family said.
“This victim was told there was enormous amounts of evidence and a conviction was almost sure. And now two and half years later after living through hell, having the trial delayed a week before it was to occur and then never rescheduled, the DA has decided not to bother even trying to get justice,” the statement said.
The family’s statement said LaBorde told them she does not think a jury in Waco is ready to convict someone if this was only his first rape.
“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,” the statement said LaBorde told them.
LaBorde did not answer The Lariat’s calls for comment.
The prosecutors told the woman and her parents “the case would go to trial and that it would definitely would not be plea bargained down without the consultation and consent of the victim,” Feazell wrote in a court notice “victim’s notice of objection to plea bargain” filed Aug. 29.
Prosecution offered Anderson a probation deal two months after he was indicted in 2016 on four counts of sexual assault. Anderson was initially set to enter the plea in Waco’s 19th State District Court on Sept. 4, which was postponed to Sept. 10 and ultimately occurred Monday.
The woman and family were not aware of the proposed plea agreement between LaBorde and Anderson until reading about it in a Waco Tribune-Herald story published Aug. 23.
Anderson, as well as 20 other members, are defendants a civil suit filed in the 414th State District Court. Five are former fraternity leaders, six are current Baylor students, nine are Baylor graduates and one is a former student, Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media communications, told the Waco Tribune-Herald. In the lawsuit, the fraternity members allegedly practiced negligence in its risk management policies and procedures, alcohol distribution and handling of sexual assault reports.
Phi Delta Theta suspended its Baylor chapter following Anderson’s indictment in May 2016. He was released from McLennan County Jail on a $5,000 bond. Anderson last attended Baylor in spring 2016, according to Fogleman.
According to Baylor’s Student Activities Greek Life webpage, Phi Delta Theta is set to return to campus in Spring 2019.