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BU frat president's plea deal sparks some outrage

Jacob Anderson. (Jail photo)
Jacob Anderson. (Jail photo)(KWTX)
Published: Oct. 18, 2018 at 3:04 PM CDT
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A plea bargain agreement reached Monday in the case of a former Baylor fraternity president indicted on four counts of sexual assault has outraged some and they're taking their protest viral.

Jacob Walter Anderson, 24, who was indicted in connection with an alleged rape in which the victim was left lying outside unconscious, entered a no contest plea Monday to one count of unlawful restraint in exchange for a sentence of three years unadjudicated probation.

He would not be required to register as a sex offender.

The offense is a third-degree felony.

State District Judge Ralph T. Strother ordered the probation department to complete a pre-sentence investigation in the case, after which the judge will make a final determination on Anderson's sentence.

That PSI hearing currently is set for Dec. 10, court records show, and at that hearing Strother can accept the plea arrangement or reject it, depending upon the results of the PSI study.

"That's exactly what he should have done. He did it the way the law requires," veteran Waco defense attorney and former prosecutor Russ Hunt, Sr., said.

But protestors have so clogged the telephone system into the 19th District Court that office employees were told to not answer it unless they knew it was not another protester.

On Wednesday a group began circulating an online petition that demanded Strother reject the plea deal and on Thursday a scathing rebuke of Strother appeared, not just on the present issue, but on others dating back years.

In the unattributed message the writer says Strother is a "Judge who's become the poster boy for corruption, or at the very least, another arm of the corrupt DA's office and the never present Abel Reyna,"

Reyna, in his defense, was in 54th District Court on Wednesday for the setting of an execution date for triple-murderer Billie Wayne Coble.

Strother said declined to comment about the issue, which, according to the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, was exactly what he should have said.

Eric Vinson, executive director of the TCJC, said should a state judge be swayed or admit that he based a ruling on political grounds or after having been swayed by public comment, "he would have violated the judicial canons and could face trouble."

TCJC's judicial canons include two cites on this very issue and they are, from section 3-B-2: A judge should be faithful to the law and shall maintain professional competence in it. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.

Then later, in section 3-B-10: "A judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding which may come before the judge's court in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge's probable decision on any particular case."

Waco attorney Vic Feazell, one of the lawyers involved in the case, told KWTX he knows about the local movement, but said, "I have faith that it will not affect Judge Strother who is a veteran judge and former prosecutor."

The victim’s family released a statement Monday blasting the agreement.

“By agreeing to this plea, Hillary Laborde and the DA’s office have allowed that rape is no longer a crime in Texas.”

“This victim was told there was enormous amounts of evidence and a conviction was almost sure. And now two and half years later after living through hell, having the trial delayed a week before it was to occur and then never rescheduled, the DA has decided not to bother even trying to get justice,” the family’s statement said.

Reyna later issued a statement in which he defended the plea deal.

“The McLennan County District Attorney’s office is known throughout the state for our aggressive prosecution of sexual assault cases, to say otherwise is simply absurd," he said.

"Let us remind everyone that our oath is to seek justice. 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," he said.

"This office stands by the plea offered and believes we have achieved the best result possible with the evidence at hand," he said.

The incident occurred early in the morning on Feb. 21, 2015, during a party at a house at 2629 South 3rd St.

The victim told investigators she was sipping a drink at a Phi Delta Theta fraternity party when “she became disoriented and very confused,” a heavily redacted arrest warrant affidavit says.

The affidavit says Anderson led her outside to a secluded part of the property behind a tent in order to get some air, and then forced her to the ground.

Details of the sexual assault were redacted from the affidavit, which says the victim told investigators that at some point she was unable to breathe and lost consciousness.

She woke up outside, alone and lying face down in her own vomit, the affidavit said.

She was “able to stand up and walk out from that area and find help,” the affidavit said.

The victim returned to the house and found a friend who took her to Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center where she was examined there by a sexual assault nurse examiner who verified the rape, police said.

In February, 16 defendants were added to a lawsuit filed over the alleged rape.

The amended petition added additional members of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity to a suit filed earlier in the month against the fraternity, the owner of the house in which the party was held and six fraternity members who served as officers at the time of the incident including Anderson.