Waco community should encourage judge to reject ex-fraternity president’s plea deal

Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

In 2016, then-Baylor student and Phi Delta Theta president Jacob Walter Anderson was indicted on four counts of sexual assault after being accused of raping another Baylor student at a fraternity party. Last week, he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint after being offered a plea deal that did not include any prison time nor require that he register as a sex offender.

With this sweet deal, Anderson would get off essentially scot-free. It would dismiss the four counts of sexual assault, result in a $400 fine, give him three years of deferred probation and require him to go to counseling.

This is not justice. For comparison, the fine for driving 25 mph over the speed limit in Waco is $300. For driving without insurance, you would owe $350. And apparently, the fine for rape in Waco is $400.

Justice is not being served, but 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother can still reject this plea and take this case to trial. Which is exactly what the victim is asking him to do.

Anderson should get probation and counseling. However, he should serve his probation after his jail time, and he should receive counseling while incarcerated.

The fact that he was even offered this plea is an insult to all sexual assault victims, and it answers the often-asked question “Why didn’t she report?” This is why many women don’t report their assaults, because their assailant may still get away with their crime. The woman in this case did everything “right”: She went to the police, she had a rape kit performed, she cooperated with an investigation. He was indicted, and yet she still might not get a trial.

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.

The woman called the plea agreement “an absolute travesty” in a statement last 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 family’s statement said the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde, offered the plea deal and 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 family’s statement said LaBorde told them.

LaBorde has not responded to the Lariat’s interview requests.

McLennan County is sending the message that they will only try serial rapists. This message is absurd and will only discourage reports of sexual assault. We cannot let Jacob Anderson become another Brock Turner.

One rape is too many. One assault is too many. Assailants need to be held accountable and punished for their actions as soon as possible. We cannot “wait until next time.”

So, LaBorde and the McLennan County DA office, we ask that you take sexual crimes seriously and never insult victims with a plea deal like this again. Judge Strother, we ask that you reject this deal. Baylor students, faculty, staff and McLennan County residents, stand up for this woman and make your voices heard. Call the 19th District Court at 254-757-5081 and ask that Strother reject the plea for Anderson and send this case to trial. There will be a protest noon Friday at the District Attorney’s office downtown. Show up, urge the judge to reject the plea. There is still a chance for justice.