DALLAS — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a former Baylor University student accused of rape to avoid jail time holds three degrees from Baylor. The criminal district attorney overseeing the case holds two. The prosecutor who agreed to the plea agreement graduated from Baylor law school.

Local leaders say those connections to the world’s largest Baptist university cast doubt on the handling of the criminal case against ex-Phi Delta Theta president Jacob Walter Anderson, who was accused of repeatedly raping a woman outside a 2016 fraternity party.

Jacob Walter Anderson was accused of raping a woman outside a 2016 fraternity party. Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune-Herald

Anderson was indicted on sexual assault charges, but the agreement allowed him to plead no contest to unlawful restraint. He must seek counseling and pay a $400 fine but will not have to register as a sex offender. His lawyers say a statement from the woman, which she read in court, is riddled with misrepresentations and distortions. Prosecutors have defended the plea deal.

The case has some similarities to that of ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in jail.

While community leaders in Waco said they do not believe or have proof of collusion in the Texas case, they said it shows a failure of the local legal system and reflects a larger culture where preferential treatment is given to people with status in the Baylor community.

Baylor ties run deep in Waco – a city of about 136,000 people located between Austin and Dallas bolstered by the economic impact of the university. Baylor has more than 20,000 students, faculty and staff in Texas. Nearly one of every five employed people in Waco work in education and health services, according to September figures from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prosecutor Hilary LaBorde, who agreed to the plea deal, graduated from the Baylor law school in 2002. LaBorde defended the plea deal in a statement, saying conflicting accounts and evidence made the original accusation difficult to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“As a prosecutor, my goal is no more victims,” she said. “I believe that is best accomplished when there is a consequence rather than an acquittal.”

Baylor student Paige Hardy, an advocate on campus for survivors of sexual abuse, said the university did the right thing in the Anderson case, expelling him after an investigation and suspending the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. But she said the outcome of the criminal case was “a slap in the face.”