Last May, a University of Boulder by the name of Austin James Wilkerson was found guilty of raping a fellow student in 2014. In Colorado, sexual assault is a Class III felony with a presumptive sentence of four years to life in prison. Austin Wilkerson is a convicted rapist, of that there is no doubt. What many find hard to believe is the fact that on August 22, 2016, a Boulder District Judge named Patrick Butler let the white, male Wilkerson off the hook with a ludicrously lenient sentence.
According to The Daily Camera, a sexual assault conviction in Colorado is subject to something called “indeterminate sentencing.” This means that Wilkerson could have –and should have– spent no less than 1,460 days and nights behind bars and should not have been released until he was deemed fit to reenter society. Instead, the convicted rapist will be allowed to attend school and have a job in the community.
When Judge Butler brought his gavel down, it was ruled that yet another white college jock rapist will walk free while his victim has nightmares for the rest of her life. The Boulder rape victim, who left the courtroom prior to Wilkerson’s sentencing, asked the judge to “Have as much mercy for the rapist as he did for me that night.” After the sentence was announced, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett noted that the prosecutors made a “very persuasive” argument for prison time, but that he would accept Butler’s decision.
The rape victim is not so accepting of Judge Butler’s outrageous ruling
Wilkerson’s light sentence of 20 years probation plus two years in a community-based work- and school-release program leaves many people outraged, including the rape victim.
The young woman whom Austin Wilkerson sexually assaulted on the University of Boulder campus has a lot to say about the incident. The unidentified Boulder rape victim, who was 19 when Wilkerson pretended to be her friend and then assaulted her, spoke her mind in an open letter that was published in The Wrap on August 12, 2016.
“It’s always been about the rapist since the assault. As the victim of this sexual assault, my life has been ruined socially, psychologically, academically, and financially.”
Stanford rapist’s slap on the wrist was (a little bit) harsher
Wilkerson received a much lighter sentence than the one handed down to Stanford swimmer Brock Turner after his on-campus rape conviction earlier this year. That too-light sentence for a college jock convicted of rape outraged America and resulted in a nationwide petition to impeach Judge Aaron Persky, who told the courtroom that he feared a harsher sentence “would have a severe impact on” the rapist. Like the Boulder campus rape victim, Turner’s rape victim also published a public letter in response to the judge who showed mercy to the convicted rapist who showed no mercy toward her. She described how she felt after waking up in the hospital after being raped by Turner.
“I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else”
[Update] The Brock Turner rape case eventually resulted in Assembly Bill 2888, which was written by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and carried by Assemblymen Bill Dodd, D-Napa, Evan Low, D-Cupertino, and state Senator Jerry Hill. The bill concerns mandatory sentencing for rape of an unconscious person and passed the state assembly panel this week, according to the Mercury News.
Another case of white student athlete privilege?
Anyone who believes the two light sentences outlined above are rare and isolated incidents really should think again. Many white male college athletes, especially those attending prestigious schools, act as if they are entitled to privileged leniency, and far too many American judges seem to agree.
Last summer, a former University of Indiana athlete named John P. Enochs was charged with two unrelated counts of rape. This past June, the white, male Enochs plead guilty to battery with bodily injury, accepted a plea deal, and walked. After that incident, incoming senior and member of the Independent Council for Women at Indiana University, Emma Riedley, told the New York Times:
“It makes me angry and afraid as a woman and a human being to see this crime not be punished as harshly as it needs to be.”
How often do college athletes get away with violent crimes?
FindLaw refers to an investigation conducted by ESPN when they note crime and conviction statistics on 20 college campuses. The resultant data clearly shows that although certain male football and basketball players were named as criminal suspects, they eluded prosecution 56 percent of the time. A comparison study group of similarly aged non-college athletes named as suspects avoided charges or prosecution only 28 percent of the time.
The young men featured in the above Tweet are rapists John P. Enochs, Brock Allen Turner and Austin James Wilkerson.
Remember their faces. Show them to your daughters. Never forget their names.
[Photo by Comstock / Getty Images]