A judge on Wednesday sentenced a former University of Colorado Boulder student to no prison time for raping a fellow student. Austin James Wilkerson, 22, was convicted of sexually assaulting a “helpless” female student who had been drinking at a party after he reassured her friends he would take care of her.
District Judge Patrick Butler sentenced Wilkerson to two years in a jail work-release program that will allow him to attend school and work during the day and return to jail in the evening. He was also sentenced to 20 years to life on probation, a move the judge reminded him of during sentencing. “If I or any other judge sees you on a probation violation, I have almost no doubt you are going to prison,” Butler said, according to the local Daily Camera. “So if you think in any way you are getting off lightly, you are not. Twenty years to life is a long time for somebody to mess up, and I hope you don’t in any way take any of that lightly.”
Prosecutors asked for prison time after the initial pre-sentencing report by the probation department did not include it. Deputy District Attorney Caryn Datz said that Wilkerson lied on the stand in order to cover up his actions and that his talk of remorse wasn’t genuine.
“It was a five-day display of arrogance, entitlement, privilege, and blatant disregard for the role of law,” Datz said. “This defendant on the witness stand admitted he is willing to lie to gain an advantage to himself.” Judge Butler also echoed some of concerns, saying that, “I do have some great concerns over, as I would describe it as, ways he tried to play the system.”
The assault took place on March 15, 2014, following a St. Patrick’s Day party, according to prosecutors. Wilkerson’s account of what happened thereafter changed throughout the investigation and case, prosecutors said. At the party, Wilkerson told friends that he would take care of the victim, who was intoxicated at the time. “He made certain his roommate saw him checking her pulse and temperature, and giving her water,” prosecutors wrote, according to The Guardian. After the assault that night, Wilkerson then sent a message to the victim’s friend. She thanked him for taking care of her.
When questioned by a university investigator, Wilkerson said that he had made “repeated advances on the victim, but that she rebuffed him each time,” and that he felt “pissed off” and that she was a “fucking bitch,” according to prosecutors. He later said that the victim had responded to him “passionately.” Finally, he admitted that he “digitally and orally penetrated” the woman while he “wasn’t getting much of a response from her.”
During the trial, Wilkerson appeared to show remorse for his actions and lamented that he added to the number of sexual assaults among his fellow students. “I sexually assaulted (the victim),” Wilkerson said. “No words I can say could ever take away the pain and fear that I have caused. Nothing I say can make it better, but I am so sorry.”
The victim, who is now 21, spoke during the hearing about the effects of the sexual assault, saying she has nightmares and panic attacks, according to the Daily Camera. But the worst part, she told Judge Butler in her statements, is the victim blaming. “‘If I hadn’t been drunk, this wouldn’t have happened,’” she said. “’If I hadn’t gotten separated, this wouldn’t have happened.’ Yet it was excusable for him to rape me because he was drunk?”
The case has drawn attention for its similarities to the Brock Turner case from California. Turner, who was convicted of multiple felonies, was sentenced to only six months in jail after he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. He is expected to serve three months in jail.