A petition urging a judge to reject the plea agreement offered to a former Baylor University fraternity president now has more than 45,000 signatures in one week.
Jacob Anderson was indicted on four counts of sexual assault after being accused of raping a teenage student at a party in 2016.
Last week, Anderson pleaded no contest to the charge of unlawful restraint, which is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Under the plea agreement, the 23-year-old will have three years of deferred adjudication, which is a form of probation but won’t have to register as a sex offender. He will also be ordered to pay a $400 fine.
Erin Albin, a Baylor University graduate student at Truett Seminary, and school of social work, opposes the agreement claiming it sends the wrong message to victims.
“It sends a message that men have the right to do this and that they can continue doing this and that there are no consequences,” Albin said. “It’s an injustice that one is not going to trial and that he is getting a low fine that is such a misdemeanor level.”
Last Thursday, the 26-year-old started a letter writing campaign and an online petition hoping to have 5,000 signatures by Dec. 10 urging Judge Ralph Strother to reject the plea deal in December.
"The fact that we have 45,000 people saying that this is not OK is really powerful,” Albin said.
Strother told Central Texas News Now, he has received feedback from those opposing Anderson’s plea but he can’t comment on a pending case.
“Even if, chances are it won’t do anything if that is the case. Then that should not influence whether or not we speak up against an injustice,” Albin said.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna declined to comment on the case on Thursday. However, last week he defended his decision in a statement:
“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. 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. This office stands by the plea offered and believes we have achieved the best result possible with the evidence at hand.”
Albin said she thinks the case still should move forward to a trial.
“It doesn’t matter if she was drugged because she was still sexually assaulted,” Albin said.
Central Texas News Now reached out to Anderson but he didn’t reply. Guy Cox, one of Anderson’s attorneys, declined to comment. The two other attorneys for the defendant Mark Daniel and Tim Moore didn’t reply to the media request.
On Friday, Baylor University student Sierra Smith will host a peaceful demonstration outside the McLennan County Courthouse at noon to show the judge some people disagree with the plea agreement.
Strother will make his final decision on the case on Dec. 10 after he receives findings of a pre-sentence investigation. If Strother reject the plea deal, the case will go to trial.
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