In Massachusetts, a star high school athlete accused of sexual assault has been given probation rather than prison time. It's the latest example in what's become a familiar story: Serious crimes allegedly committed by young, white men which result in lenient sentences.
On August 15, a district court judge ordered the case against 18-year-old David Becker, who had been charged with sexually assaulting two women, to be "continued without finding"—a form of court order which essentially allows a case to remain technically open following either a guilty plea, or, per the Massachusetts Judicial Branch website, an "admission to sufficient facts." Essentially, this affirms a defendant's culpability but without "the formal entry of a guilty finding." These continuations are sometimes contingent upon probational conditions, as is the case in this instance.
According to local station WWLP, Becker had been accused of raping the women as they slept in the hours after a party in April. He was subsequently charged with two counts of rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery. Hampden County Assistant District Attorney Eileen M. Sears asked that Becker serve two years in prison for the alleged assaults. However, at least one of the women involved had written a letter to the court claiming she did not see jail time as necessary, which may have influenced the judge's decision.
Rather than face prison, Becker will instead spend two years on probation, during which he must refrain from using drugs and alcohol but can still play the many sports he likes. Becker must also stay away from the two victims. Though he will be required to submit to an evaluation for sex offender treatment, he will not have to register as one.
"[Becker] can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender," Thomas Rooke, Becker's attorney, explained to MassLive. "The goal of this sentence was not to impede this individual from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience."
Rooke has not responded to a request for comment. This story will be updated if and when he does.
His comments echo those of judge Aaron Persky, who infamously presided over the case of Brock Turner, the Stanford athlete who went to trial for the rape of an unconscious woman following a frat party. Turner was ultimately sentenced to just six months in a county jail, followed by three years of probation. "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him," Persky reasoned.
In a similar case in June, John P. Enochs, a 22-year-old former student at Indiana University, accepted a plea deal after two separate charges of felony rape were dismissed and replaced with lesser offenses. The judge cited both Enochs' age and his previously clean criminal record.
On Twitter, users reacted to Becker's sentence with anger:
Initial reports stated Becker would be attending the University of Dayton in the fall. The school has since taken to Twitter to deny Becker's upcoming enrollment.