The Ex-Baylor Frat President, Prosecutorial Discretion, and Justice
“Ex-Baylor frat president indicted on 4 counts of sex assault won’t go to prison.”
“Ex-frat president who was fined only $400 for alleged rape still allowed to graduate.”
“Texas judge who approved plea deal for alleged Baylor University rapist faces public backlash.”
These are all headlines from major news outlets today – what do they all have in common? Sensationalism and a most likely willful ignorance of how the justice system works.
A “former Baylor University fraternity president” who was accused of rape pled guilty to a lesser offense and was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Victim’s rights advocates and the media are beating the drum to get rid of the horrible judge who allowed this to happen, painting a picture of a justice system gone wrong, where a rich frat boy can drug your daughter and forcibly rape her with impunity.
What’s wrong with the reporting? Did a Texas judge just give a rich, white, ex-Baylor frat president a pass for drugging and raping a girl?
If you are able, let’s set down the pitchforks for a moment and take a closer look…
Was the Ex-Baylor Frat President Convicted of Rape?
In 2016, he was charged with four counts of sexual assault/ rape, but he was not convicted of rape.
In a plea agreement with the prosecutor (plea agreements are how most criminal convictions happen – this is the rule, rather than the exception), he pled guilty to “unlawful restraint.”
Even though Jacob Walter Anderson was indicted on four counts of sexual assault, the ex-fraternity president won’t spend a single day in prison.
Instead, a plea agreement allowed the former Baylor University student to plead no contest to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint.
That means if the 24-year-old successfully completes three years of deferred probation and pays a $400 fine, his criminal record will be wiped clean of the charge, CNN affiliate KWKT said.
Anderson will have to complete alcohol, drug and psychological treatment plans. But he won’t have to register as a sex offender in Texas.
“Unlawful restraint,” in Texas, is like “kidnapping lite.” It has three levels:
- The lowest level, a “Class A misdemeanor;”
- A “state jail felony” if the alleged victim was younger than 17 years old; and
- A “felony in the third degree” if “the actor recklessly exposes the victim to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury.”
Anderson pled guilty to the felony unlawful restraint, which I believe carries up to ten years in prison. He did not plead guilty to rape or sexual assault, and he cannot and should not be punished for rape or assault if he has not been convicted of the offense.
He technically didn’t plead guilty – he pled “no contest,” which means that he does not admit it happened, but he is pleading guilty to the lesser offense and accepting the benefit of the plea offer to avoid a trial.
“Ex-Baylor Frat President:” Sensationalism
Rather than investigating the facts of the case and discussing the evidence, most media outlets went with sensationalized coverage, focusing on the shock and horror of a rape victim who did not get justice.
The coverage consistently includes taglines like:
- “Ex-Baylor frat president,” conjuring the stereotype of the drunken frat boy rapist who “gets off” because he is rich;
- “Sweetheart plea deal;” implying that the prosecutor and judge are conspiring with the frat boy rapist;
- They “let a rapist run free;”
- It’s like the Brock Turner case;
- “Fined only $400;” and
- “Won’t spend a single day in prison.”
Almost every media story on the case repeatedly calls him a rapist – “unlawful restraint-ist” just doesn’t have the same ring to it I suppose. It must be okay, even though he is no longer charged with rape and there is no danger of a conviction for rape, because, as they call him a rapist, they qualify it with, “accused rapist,” “indicted rapist,” or “charged rapist.”
For most of these media outlets, it is clear that the goal is to get clicks, attract readers, and sell ads, not to inform readers. In the process, they are stoking the passions of the angry mob that is forming outside of the judge’s chambers, pitchforks in hand.
Prosecutorial Discretion – Why Did the Prosecutor Offer a Plea Deal?
The prosecutor’s job is to seek Justice. Although prosecutors may get confused and lose their way at times, their job is not to please the angry mob. Their job is not to get a conviction at all costs. Their job is not to seek reelection by pursuing an unjust conviction.
Prosecutors do not represent the alleged victim in any criminal case. They represent the state or the federal government – they do not have an obligation to believe every alleged victim or to pursue the alleged victim’s agenda.
If a prosecutor does not believe that they can prove a case beyond any reasonable doubt, their obligation is to not try the case – they should dismiss the case or pursue a reduced charge that they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
We know what the alleged victim’s accusations are because they are included in almost every media story:
This guy violently raped me multiple times, choked me, and when I blacked out, he dumped me face down on the ground and left me to die. When I woke up aspirating up my own vomit, my friends immediately took me to the hospital.
What we don’t know, unless we wade through ten or more media articles to find it, is the defense’s side of the case – the reasons why the case is not going to trial and probably should not go to trial:
- There was “passionate kissing, groping and grinding by this girl and Mr. Anderson that occurred in front of more than 100 people at this party;”
- Her claim that she was choked was contradicted by both the physical evidence and her own statements to police and EMS;
- She claimed she was drugged but there were no drugs in her system;
- Her blood alcohol level was .12 when she got to the hospital the same night;
- She told two students that it “may have been consensual;”
- The same students said that “she seemed fine, seemed calm and collected immediately afterward as if nothing had happened;”
- There is a photo of her smiling and grinning an hour and a half later at the hospital;
- She gave “numerous inconsistent statements to the prosecution;” and
- She is suing the defendant, the fraternity, and the owner of the house where the alleged assault happened.
The district attorney also released a statement pointing out that the evidence did not support the girl’s claims:
“Let us remind everyone that our oath is to seek justice,” Reyna said in the statement. “In pursuit of that ideal, we must evaluate each case alone on its own merit. Early in this case, law enforcement believed that the victim may have been drugged and this belief has been widely disseminated in the media; however, the evidence did not support that theory.
The problem here is that the people commenting, myself included, have not seen all the evidence in the case. People lie. Sometimes, defendants lie to get out of trouble. Sometimes, alleged rape victims lie. Media spins the facts to get your attention and your clicks.
The judge in this case, after hearing the evidence and based on the recommendation from the prosecutor, did not sentence the defendant to prison – not because he has a soft spot for violent rapists, but because the evidence did not support the claims that he was a violent rapist.
What is the alternative? Every time someone claims that they were raped, the accused person must go to prison? Is that the justice system that you want for yourself, your family, and your community?
I prefer a justice system based on evidence and, well, the pursuit of Justice.
Rape and Sexual Assault Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC
If you have been charged with a sex crime or if you think you may be under investigation, call now at (843) 808-2100 or send an email through our website to talk to a Charleston, SC criminal defense attorney today.