Protestors gather to speak against Anderson plea deal

Story by Raegan Turner | Staff Writer, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter

Protestors lined the sidewalk of the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office on Friday afternoon to speak out against current plea deal in the Jacob Walter Anderson sexual assault case. The objectors were protesting the recently announced plea bargain proposed by Assistant District Attorney Hillary LaBorde and Anderson’s lawyers regarding Anderson’s involvement in a May 2016 sexual assault case.

Anderson, a former Baylor student and president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, was indicted on four counts of sexual assault in May 2016. The deal would include Anderson pleading to no contest to unlawful restraint on Oct.15, which would allow the dismissal of all sexual assault charges, assign three years of unadjudicated probation, require counseling and fine him $400.

Arlington senior Sierra Smith planned Friday’s demonstration with the intention of grabbing the attention of the judge of the case, 19th State District Court Judge Ralph Strother, to express the community’s displeasure with the prospect of the plea bargain and to stand in support of the alleged victim.

In addition, Smith wrote a letter to be sent to Judge Strother, which, many of the protestors signed in support — she had something wanted to say to Judge Strothers.

“You have an opportunity to make a headline about sexual assault that is not embarrassing for Waco. In fact, you have an opportunity to make the community of Waco very proud,” Smith said.

Smith, Baylor students and members of the Waco community were present at the protest. Many were holding signs calling for the rejection of the plea deal, some with words like, “Hear her, Protect her,” and “Believe Women.” Houston junior Karin Simpson was holding a sign emblazoned with the hashtag “Me Too,” a reference to a movement dedicated to supporting sexual assault survivors and ending sexual violence.

“I’m here just to show the victim that she has support and there are people that believe her and she’s not alone,” Simpson said. “Also, to show the judge that he should reject the deal and not let someone get off easy; there’s evidence and things that show that something wrong happened. That should be brought to light and people should know about it — each person should be given a chance to share their side of the story.”

The protestors succeeded in grabbing attention from some of the community. People visiting Waco or simply walking around the downtown area stopped and discussed the demonstration with the protestors. Drivers in passing cars honked their horns and various pedestrians gave shouts in support of the group’s actions.

Along with the protest, there is an online petition with almost 47,000 signatures, which does not support Anderson’s plea bargain.

“We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the authorities carefully consider the evidence in this case and give this young sexual assault victim her day in court and reject this plea bargain.” the petition concludes.

Judge Strother’s final decision is set to be made in December of this year.