Just two months after Stanford student Brock Turner avoided prison time for raping a woman behind a dumpster, a former Colorado University-Boulder student has received a similarly light sentence for sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman.
Austin James Wilkerson, 22, was found guilty of having sexually assaulted a freshman student in 2014, when he was still a student at the school, the Daily Camera reported. The Camera said that Wilkerson was "pretending to care for" the victim, whom the Camera said had consumed too much to drink a St. Patrick's Day party, when he raped her.
"When I'm not having nightmares about the rape, retaliation or a retrial gone awry, I'm having panic attacks," the victim said during Wilkerson's trial. "Some days I can't even get out of bed."
The victim, who was not identified, asked the judge for a lengthy prison sentence for Wilkerson. "Have as much mercy for the rapist as he did for me that night," she said.
But under Colorado law, a sexual assault charge is subject to "indeterminate sentencing," which meant that Wilkerson would not have been released from prison until he was deemed "fit." That, the Camera said, was part of Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler's reasoning for not to hand down a prison sentence, despite prosecutors asking for one.
Wilkerson instead faces 20 years of probation; he will serve two years in Boulder County Jail, on a work release program that will allow him to leave the jail during the day to attend work or school.
"I've struggled, to be quite frank, with the idea of, 'Do I put him in prison?'" Butler said according to the Camera. "I don't know that there is any great result for anybody. Mr. Wilkerson deserves to be punished, but I think we all need to find out whether he truly can or cannot be rehabilitated."
Before the trial, county prosecutors had accused Wilkerson of being a serial liar. A pre-trial memo prepared by prosecutors said that he had "demonstrated highly manipulative and deceptive conduct throughout this case, starting with the night he raped a physically helpless young woman. He has also consistently given whatever account of the events of March 15, 2014 that best serves him at the moment."
The lead prosecutor in the case, Caryn Datz, was left in disbelief at Butler's decision not to sentence Wilkerson to any time behind bars.
"It was a five-day display of arrogance, entitlement, privilege and blatant disregard for the role of law," she said. "This defendant on the witness stand admitted he is willing to lie to gain an advantage to himself."
Boulder County DA Stan Garnett told the Camera that while he disagreed with Judge Butler's sentence, it was "within the parameters of what is permitted by the law."
But a recent survey found that 28 percent of female undergraduates at CU say they were sexually assaulted during their time on campus.
"It will achieve little for this community if, in the face of an epidemic of sexual violence, the defendant receives no form of meaningful punishment in this case," prosecutors wrote. "Rapists go to prison. That is what justice requires."
According to Colorado's Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, which surveys attorneys about judges' capabilities, Judge Butler's known weaknesses are a lack of knowledge in "certain areas of domestic relations law" and that at times he has "favored the speedy resolution of matters over reaching a correct result."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.