A former Baylor University fraternity president indicted on sexual assault charges in 2016 pleaded no contest Monday to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint in a deal that would keep him from going to prison or registering as a sex offender.
The deal would give Jacob Walter Anderson three years of deferred probation, fine him $400 and require him to seek counseling, while dismissing the four counts of sexual assault. Unlawful restraint is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The alleged victim, who is a former Baylor student, and her parents have condemned the plea agreement and have urged 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother to reject it.
Strother ordered a presentence investigation by the probation department and will schedule a sentencing hearing for Anderson in about six weeks. That could change if the judge rejects the plea bargain after reviewing the report. If he does, Anderson could withdraw his no-contest plea and a trial likely would be scheduled.
McLennan County First Assistant District Attorney Robert Moody, who represented the state at the hearing, declined comment on Anderson’s plea agreement. Prosecutor Hilary LaBorde, who is handling the case, did not attend the hearing and did not return phone messages Monday.
A trial is what the woman and her family want.
“Just when you think the Baylor rape scandal can’t get any worse,” the woman said in a statement Saturday. The woman and her family did not attend Monday’s hearing on the advice of their attorney, Vic Feazell.
“This is an absolute travesty,” the statement reads. “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. They are telling the rapists and sexual predators, ‘Go ahead and violently rape, choke to near death and abandon your unconscious, ravaged and used-up victim and we will make darn sure you get some counseling. Even if a grand jury indicts you on four counts of sexual assault, we don’t care.’
“Oh, and ‘All you rape victims, don’t bother to report it, because we will put you through hell for years, make promises about getting a conviction and lie to you about not accepting a plea the whole time. We will give your rapist counseling and drop all charges and let him go free. We don’t care about about justice and we don’t care about you,’” she said in the statement.
The family learned of the proposed plea agreement between LaBorde and Anderson by reading an Aug. 23 story in the Tribune-Herald, Feazell said. In a court filing, Feazell urged Strother to reject the deal, saying the victim had been assured that no plea bargain would be offered without the victim’s consent.
After the hearing Monday, Feazell said: “It pays to be rich.”
Anderson and his three attorneys declined comment after the hearing.
Court documents show LaBorde offered Anderson 10 years probation and a $5,000 fine in exchange for his plea to sexual assault in July 2016. The family said they were unaware of that plea offer until after Anderson turned it down.
Anderson, 23, of Garland, former president of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter at Baylor, was expelled after a university investigation.
The woman reported she was at a fraternity party at a house in the 2600 block of South Third Street in February 2016 and someone handed her punch and told her to drink it, according to arrest affidavits. Shortly thereafter, she became disoriented and Anderson took her to a secluded part of the grounds behind a tent so she could get some air, the affidavit states. Once they were away from the crowd, he sexually assaulted her, according to the documents.
The victim’s mother said in a statement provided by Feazell in September that they are upset LaBorde did not inform them before the initial plea offer in 2016 or the subsequent offer this year.
“She never told us about that (first) one, and she had not even spoken to the witnesses or even read the Title IX report yet,” the woman’s mother said. “She never bothered to put one ounce of effort into this case. She led (the victim) on and put her through this knowing she was going to betray her the whole time.”
In an email dated Aug. 28 to Feazell that the former McLennan County district attorney included with the family’s objection to the plea agreement, the woman describes her disappointment.
“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,” the woman’s email states. “When I woke up aspirating on my own vomit, my friends immediately took me to the hospital and we reported it to the Waco police, Baylor police and Title IX office.”
She said in a statement from the family Saturday that she did everything authorities tell sexual assault victims to do. Yet she and her family feel slighted by the efforts of the DA’s office, she said.
“Rape is rampant on college campuses,” her statement says. “Now, when we finally had a trial set, the DA gives up without even giving the victim a chance to tell her story, to testify in front of a judge and jury and the world about the night that forever changed her life. To testify about the assault that almost ended her life. It is only by the grace of God that she is alive today to continue this fight for justice. The courage and strength required of her to keep living and keep fighting for herself and all rape victims has been incredible.”
According to the statement, LaBorde told the woman and her family about a sexual assault case LaBorde lost involving college students. But the family and their attorney, Feazell, said the facts are “completely different.”
“Hilary told us she does not think a jury in Waco is ready to convict someone if this was only his first rape,” the statement reads. “She said, ‘I have had success in trying college-aged defendants, yes, but in retrospect, only when they have multiple victims.’ In a prior loss of a case with completely different facts, she told us, ‘In short, I think this jury was looking for any excuse not to find an innocent-looking young defendant guilty. They engaged in a lot of victim blaming. ... It’s my opinion that our jurors aren’t ready to blame rapists and not victims.’”
“So, first-time rapists get a pass?” the woman asked.
LaBorde has declined to discuss the case because it is a pending matter.
The victim filed a civil lawsuit in February 2018 against Anderson, the local and national chapters of Phi Delta Theta and the landlord who owned the home where the alleged assault occurred. The lawsuit is pending.