By Raegan Turner | Staff Writer
The announcement of a plea deal in the sexual assault case involving Jacob Walter Anderson, the former Baylor student and president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, has prompted an outcry from students at Baylor and citizens of Waco. A protest of the newly proposed plea deal is scheduled for Friday from noon to 5 p.m. in front of the McLennan County District Attorney’s office at 219 N Sixth St.
The assault case from 2016 has recently been spotlighted due to Anderson’s pleading of “no contest” on Oct. 15 to a charge of unlawful restraint, a lesser offense than when he was indicted on four counts of sexual assault, which is a second-degree felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison. The plea was part of a possible deal that would sentence Anderson to three years of deferred probation along with a $400 fine and required counseling. The four counts of sexual assault filed against Anderson would be dismissed.
Arlington Senior Sierra Smith organized Friday’s protest to bring awareness to the people’s opinions of the plea deal and to show solidarity with the victim.
“The aim of the demonstration is to hopefully get the attention of Judge Strother and let him know that the community in which he presides is not happy with this agreement. Hopefully he will reject it and allow the case to go to trial. Beyond that specifically, we want to show the survivor that there are people who are in her corner,” Smith said.
If 19th State District Court Judge Ralph Strother chooses to reject the plea bargain, a trial would likely be scheduled. The alleged victim and her family expressed their desire for a trial and disgust for the recent proceedings in a statement released Sat. Oct. 13.
“This is an absolute travesty … By agreeing to this plea, (prosecutor) Hilary LaBorde and the McLennan County DA’s office have allowed that rape is no longer a crime in Texas,” the statement read.
Some students are looking to increase the conversation regarding sexual assault through the protest. San Antonio senior Paige Hardy indicates how important it is to engage in communication about sexual assault itself and the differing opinions of this case.
“I’ve just really been encouraging people who, whether they agree with this plea agreement or not, to voice their opinions and have this conversation because as long as we’re talking about sexual assault and the judicial process, it’s good for survivors. It’s good for everyone,” Hardy said.
Sierra Smith is also a victim of sexual assault. Her personal experience leads her to testify to the importance of caring about the situation and she urges the rest of Baylor to do the same.
“I feel like all Baylor students should be passionate about this, especially with what’s been going on at our school in particular … I think it’s important that we show the district attorney, the prosecutors, Waco, the country, just everywhere and anywhere that this is a big deal,” Smith said.
For more information about the protest, visit Facebook for the event listing. If you or anyone you know is a victim of or has information about sexual assault, please contact Baylor’s Title IX office at 254-710-8454 or email TitleIX_Coordinator@baylor.edu.