BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 10 (UPI) — A former University of Colorado student convicted of sexually assaulting a helpless woman will not serve prison time, a judge ruled Wednesday.
A jury in May convicted Austin James Wilkerson, 22, of what prosecutors said was the isolation and rape of a “half-conscious victim” he had promised to take care of at a St. Patrick’s Day party in 2014.
Wilkerson could have faced up to 12 years in prison, but instead was sentenced to two years of work or school release and 20 years to life on probation. He will spend the night in jail during those two years.
Though he has been suspended from the university, Wilkerson can still go to another school or work during the day, but must return to the county jail in Boulder every night to complete his two-year sentence.
The decision, reminiscent of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s case, drew outrage from victim’s advocates. But Colorado law requires indeterminate sentencing for the charge. If sent to prison, Wilkerson could not be released, regardless of his actual sentence, until the court found him fit to return to society.
Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler said he wrestled with his decision partly for that reason.
“I’ve struggled, to be quite frank, with the idea of, ‘Do I put him in prison?'” Butler said. “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.”