A lenient plea deal for a former Baylor University fraternity president accused of rape returned the spotlight to a Baptist school still dealing with fallout from a high-profile sexual assault scandal involving its athletics department that led to a leadership change.
On Monday a judge in Waco, Texas, accepted a deal allowing Jacob Walter Anderson to avoid prison and not be required to register as a sex offender for allegedly raping a drugged 19-year-old coed at an off-campus fraternity party in 2016.
Anderson, 23, former president of Baylor’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter, faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted of four counts of sexual assault. Instead he received deferred probation, court-ordered counseling and a $400 fine in exchange for pleading no contest to a lesser felony charge of unlawful restraint. If he completes probation, there will be no final judgment of guilt.
More than 87,000 people signed an online petition urging McLennan County Judge Ralph Strother to reject the plea deal offered by prosecutors, saying it sends a message “that rape is no longer a crime in Texas.”
According to local media reports, the judge acknowledged the widespread interest in the case during Monday’s hearing, saying most of the comments he has seen on social media and in e-mails fall into three categories: “not fully informed, misinformed or totally uninformed.”
The victim, who is not identified by name in media reports, had asked the judge to reject the plea offer and set a trial so she could have her day in court. According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, she said in court that Anderson “ruined my life, stole my virginity and stole many other things from me.”
The February 2016 incident came about a month after a scathing ESPN report featured three women claiming they were sexually assaulted by former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott and the university ignored their reports. His conviction and another sexual assault by former football player Sam Ukwuachu prompted Baylor to commission the Pepper Hamilton law firm for an independent investigation into the university’s handling of sexual assault.
Anderson’s alleged victim filed a lawsuit in February accusing him and other fraternity members of knowingly giving alcohol to underage students, thereby allowing her to be drugged.
According to Anderson’s arrest warrant, the 19-year-old sophomore accepted a drink of punch at the party and became disoriented. Anderson allegedly took her outside to a secluded area and sexually assaulted her until she lost consciousness.
A police spokesman at the time said she awoke covered in her own vomit and could have died by asphyxiation during her unconscious state. She made it back to the frat house and told a friend, who took her to the hospital.