Online Petition Moves UT-Dallas to Ban Student After Rape Case Plea Deal

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Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald via AP

The University of Texas at Dallas, responding to an online petition, banned a student after he accepted a plea deal to a lesser charge in a high-profile college rape case at Baylor University.

Jacob Anderson, 23, the former Baylor University fraternity president charged with four counts of sexual assault, pleaded no contest to the reduced charge of third-degree felony assault restraint on Monday. McLellan County Judge Ralph Strother sentenced him to three years of deferred adjudication probation where he must abide by 39 conditions of the probation, according to the order obtained by WFAA. He also agreed to pay a $400 fine. Anderson will not have to register as a sex offender.

In 2016, a female accuser said she was raped by him after drinking spiked punch at a party. Reportedly, Baylor officials expelled Anderson once the sexual assault allegations surfaced and they suspended the fraternity Phi Delta Theta. Anderson, a Garland native, has been completing his undergraduate studies at UT Dallas where he is a senior. The developments and resolution of this controversial case have received widespread media coverage.

On Tuesday morning, Kelsey Casto, a 31-year-0ld UT Dallas senior, was appalled by the news of the plea agreement. She started a MoveOn.org petition asking university officials to “remove” Anderson from the campus. She told the Waco Tribune-Herald she, too, was sexual assault survivor, and learned Anderson attended UT Dallas by reading the publication’s account of the sentencing hearing. The online petition read, in part:

 The students at UT Dallas have a right to feel safe on their campus. Anderson submitted a plea of no contest and was sentenced to deferred probation, and will not be made to register as a sex offender. That being the case, the school is has a responsibility to ensure that their decision to admit Anderson was fully informed.

University officials acknowledged the petition in a Wednesday morning tweet which stated: “The safety and well-being of our students, faculty & staff are of the utmost importance to the University. While federal laws limit what we can address publicly, we are aware of the online petition & the community’s concern. UTD administration is currently reviewing the situation.”

The petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures by the time UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson released a statement late Wednesday afternoon, agreeing to ban Anderson from the campus.

“There is nothing more important at UT Dallas than the safety and security of our students,” tweeted Benson. “Two years ago we admitted a student without knowing their legal history. Based on recent court action and other information over the last several days, that student will not participate in UTD commencement activities, will not attend UT Dallas graduate school and will not be present on campus as a student or as a guest. I am grateful to the UT Dallas students, faculty and other community members who have shared their concerns, disappointment and outrage over this student’s presence on our campus.”

One of Anderson’s attorneys, Tim Moore, told the Tribune-Herald his client was very upset about being “banned from the school.” Anderson was set to graduate with a finance degree. He currently works for a Dallas real estate development company. Moore said Anderson will graduate but will not be allowed to participate in the commencement ceremony.

Moore described the uproar created by the plea agreement and the online petition as “an absolutely overblown frenzy.” Moore said he tried to talk to the dean of students Wednesday but she wouldn’t speak to him without a privacy release from Anderson.

Mark Daniel, Anderson’s other defense lawyer, told the Waco newspaper: “We have the utmost respect for Judge Strother for ascertaining the true and accurate complexion of these accusations and following the state’s carefully prepared recommendation.”

Casto since said she was pleased with the university’s response. “It couldn’t have been better. They didn’t pacify us. They listened and they took action and we really couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

As of press time, the petition had more than 27,800 signatures from individuals across the United States. Casto said the petition received dozens of comments from future UT Dallas parents and sexual assault survivors.

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