Ex-Colorado University student spared
prison for sexual assault
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[August 12, 2016]
By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A former University of
Colorado student has been spared a prison sentence for his sexual
assault conviction, drawing angry comparisons from victim advocates to
the lenient punishment a Stanford University swimmer received in a
Austin James Wilkerson, 22, was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in
Boulder County jail, making him eligible for a work-release program
where he can go to a regular job or attend school during the day but
spend his nights in the county lockup.
Following completion of the two-year jail term, Wilkerson will remain on
probation for at least 20 years.
Wilkerson was convicted in May of sexual assault on a helpless victim
and unlawful sexual contact, both felonies, stemming from a 2014 attack
on an intoxicated woman.
Under Colorado law, Wilkerson faced a possible state prison sentence
ranging from eight years to life.
But Boulder County District Court judge Patrick Butler apparently was
swayed by county probation officials who recommended against sending him
to a state penitentiary.
The probation department's pre-sentencing report cited Wilkerson’s lack
of a criminal history and what it characterized as his acceptance of
Prosecutors, however, said Wilkerson deserved prison time, noting the
defendant's betrayal of his assurances to the victim's friends that he
would take care of her after she had too much to drink.
“(T)his defendant raped a helpless young woman ... tried to cover up his
crime, and then repeatedly lied about what he did – including under oath
at trial,” prosecutors wrote.
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Brie Franklin, executive director of the Colorado Coalition against
Sexual Assault, denounced the decision on Thursday.
She likened it to the six-month jail sentence a California judge
imposed in June on former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner
following his conviction for sexually assaulting an unconscious
woman, which sparked widespread condemnation.
“We have seen over and over the failure of the criminal justice
system to consider the trauma and life-long effects experienced by
victims," Franklin said in a statement.
One of Wilkerson's prosecutors, Caryn Datz, told Reuters there were
“parallels” between the two cases, and that Butler was within his
discretion to impose the lesser punishment, as was the California
judge in the Turner sentencing.
“We were disappointed in the outcome but not necessarily surprised,”
Datz said, adding that the judge made it clear to Wilkerson that any
violations of the terms of his confinement or probation could result
in prison time.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Tom Brown)
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