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Advocate Dismayed By Work-Release Sentence For Rapist

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - A former University of Colorado student who raped another student will not serve any time in prison.

This week a Boulder County judge went against prosecutors' wishes for a harsher punishment and sentenced Austin Wilkerson to 20 years of probation.

Wilkerson, 22, will be put into a work release program at the Boulder County Jail. He will be able to go to school and work during the day and then must sleep at the jail at night.

Austin Wilkerson
Austin Wilkerson (credit: Boulder County)

A jury found Wilkerson guilty of raping a half-conscious woman after a party two years ago. He had told her friends he'd take care of her.

"This defendant had truly earned a sentence to the Department of Corrections," said Caryn Datz, a deputy district attorney in Boulder.

Wilkerson was a Ralphie handler for CU's football program, meaning he was one of the people who escorted the bison mascot onto the field.

The case resembles a highly-publicized one earlier this year where a Stanford University student and star swimmer was convicted of rape but also avoided prison time.

"We've seen in other instances where it's a person of color or they're not an athlete or they aren't in college and they don't seem to be as worthy of that mercy," said said Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault spokeswoman Brie Franklin, who is concerned about the sentence.

Franklin says says too often judges take into greater account the offender's future rather than the victim's.

"There's a lot of 'Oh, poor him, we don't want to ruin his life. It was a one-time thing,' and we're forgetting this wasn't something that happened to the perpetrator. This was something that they chose to do," Franklin said.

Colorado's Attorney General Cynthia Coffman tweeted about the case, saying "No prison time for sexual assault sends a terrible message. My thoughts are with the victim."

Despite the outcome of the case, prosecutors thanked the victim for being brave enough to come forward.

"This one particular victim through her courage has kept the community safer by speaking out and preventing future victims in her own way, and that's something that we're very proud of," Datz said.

Additional Resources

The following is a statement from the victim in this case, which was provided by the Boulder DA's office:

Although I did have to relive the trauma multiple times, I would go through this process all over again. Our goal has been to have the rapist not perpetrate again, which hopefully won't happen even with the light sentence. We get to put a face to the 1-in-4 statistics. Surprisingly, this whole ordeal has been therapeutic. I get to tell my story and not keep it bottled up. Other brave survivors' eerily familiar stories have inspired me to share my story that rape isn't always a stranger in the bushes. The most rewarding part of this process has been meeting the most brilliant, hardest working, funniest, most encouraging people I have ever known."

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