One year ago today, we published a post about outrage over the light sentence given to convicted rapist Austin Wilkerson, a former CU Boulder student. Turns out, though, that Wilkerson's punishment was even more modest than originally advertised. He's already a free man, after reportedly being released from a two-year work-release obligation twelve months early.
The Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group, an organization co-founded by Kendra Heuer, who's spoken out under her own name about being assaulted by Wilkerson, responded to this development on Facebook with a small word that speaks volumes: "Ew."
Wilkerson's crime is detailed in a sentencing memorandum assembled by Lisa Saccomano and Caryn Datz, who prosecuted the case under the auspices of the Boulder County District Attorney's office. The document is accessible below.
On March 15, 2014, according to the memo, Heuer, who was named one of the "25 Women Changing the World" by People magazine after she came forward as a sexual-assault survivor, had too much to drink while celebrating St. Patrick's Day weekend — and Wilkerson told friends that he was going to take care of her. His roommate saw him checking her pulse and temperature and giving her water.
Shortly thereafter, the document maintains, Wilkerson sexually penetrated Heuer "digitally and orally" before masturbating onto her stomach. Once he finished, he sent a text to the a friend of hers in which he portrayed himself as a caretaker. The text earned him a thanks for his supposedly thoughtful behavior.
Wilkerson had made numerous romantic advances in regard to Heuer in the past and told CU investigators that her rejection left him feeling "pissed off." He referred to her as a "fucking bitch" and initially denied that anything sexual had taken place, the memo says, until he was "confronted with the possibility that his semen might have ended up on the victim." At that point, he is said to have acknowledged that he'd masturbated, but claimed he'd ejaculated into the toilet — and speculated that if any of it wound up on the woman, that's where she'd come into contact with it.
At trial, the document goes on, Wilkerson's account took another direction. He insisted that Heuer wasn't inebriated, had reacted "passionately" when they'd hooked up, and made "pleasure sounds" when he "caressed her vagina." He also denied (again) that he'd masturbated and said he'd ended the encounter prematurely because he felt guilty about cheating on his girlfriend.
During an interview after his conviction, Wilkerson's story shifted again, the memo maintains, with him admitting to the masturbation and more and displaying a "'striking' degree of accountability." But prosecutors Saccomano and Datz argued that this change of tone didn't erase his actions at trial, when he "essentially called the victim a liar while her father sat in the courtroom and listened." Among his assertions: He said Heuer, who was so traumatized by the incident that she made an unsuccessful attempt to end her life, had accused him of raping her "in a petty attempt to avoid anger from her parents about her grades in school."
"This defendant pretty much gave untrue versions of what happened right up until he was convicted, even on the witness stand," Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett told us for our original post. "He really just ripped the victim, blamed the victim, said she enjoyed it, which was totally untrue — and the jury didn't believe any of it. Then, once he gets convicted, he goes to the probation department and says he's really taking responsibility and understands what happened and everything else. But I do think there should be some consequences in the court's eyes for a guy who tries to play the system all the way through — and certainly, Mr. Wilkerson did."
This effort proved successful. Wilkerson was eligible for between four and twelve years in prison for his offense, but Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler hit Wilkerson with just two years of work release and twenty years to life on probation. The sentence inspired a petition calling for Butler's ouster. It eventually collected more than 82,000 signatures.
This was hardly the first wrist-slap for a white college student convicted of a sexual crime. Stanford student Brock Turner was famously given a six-month jail sentence for three sexual-assault convictions. Closer to home, onetime Air Force cadet Jack Warmolts avoided prison after pleading guilty to second-degree assault and unlawful sexual contact in Boulder. Instead, he was ordered to spend a year in Boulder County Jail, plus register as a sex offender and undergo ten years of intensive supervised probation upon his release. And the prosecution of another former Air Force cadet, Daniel Ryerson, followed a similar pattern. After Ryerson was convicted of rape, the Boulder DA's office cited evidence that he showed no remorse for his actions and blamed his victim. For that reason, Garnett said, "We asked for prison time — and we didn't get it." Ryerson was subsequently given six months in Boulder County Jail, plus ten years to life on probation as a sex offender.
For his part, Wilkerson was released on August 12 after being granted 363 days of "good time" toward his 730-day sentence. A Boulder County Sheriff's Office spokesman told Denver7 he has de-registered as a sex offender in Boulder County because he's moving to Morrison, where his parents live. He must register as a sex offender in Jefferson County, where Morrison is located, by week's end.
Click to read the Austin Wilkerson sentencing memorandum.