A UW-Madison business student was sentenced to three years in prison for raping three female students and choking or stalking two others. The leniency of his sentence has shocked lawyers and observers.
Alec Cook, 22, was initially charged with over 20 crimes against more than a dozen women. After he agreed to plead guilty to three counts of third-degree sexual assault, as well as strangulation and stalking, Judge Stephen Ehlke dismissed the remaining charges.
Prosecutors were seeking 19 years behind bars for the former business student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while defense attorneys were looking for probation.
The repeat offender wept in court and apologized to his victims, one of whom described her ordeal in a victim impact statement. “Part of me died in order to survive that night with him and that part of me will never grow back,” local media reported her as saying.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong,” Cook said. “You told the truth and everyone should believe you. This is my fault. You didn’t deserve this. And neither did your families. To them, too, I’m so sorry.”
Judge Ehlke said that he hoped the verdict would give Cook’s victims closure, and he credited Cook for pleading guilty and sparing them the stress of a sexual assault trial.
To some, the judge’s verdict was overly lenient. Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel expressed his disappointment.
“At the Department of Justice, we hope that the fact that Alec Cook stands convicted as a felony sex offender and is on his way to prison will give survivors faith that there are people in the criminal justice system who stand ready to fight for justice for them,” he said in a statement.
To observers on Twitter, Cook’s sentence was a slap on the wrist. Several saw it as an example of “white male privilege” and “our jaded justice system.”
A judge sentenced a former University of Wisconsin-Madison student to 3 years in prison for sexually assaulting 3 female students because he apparently deserved credit for sparing his victims a trial. https://t.co/EJKzXbjHO2
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) June 22, 2018
Cook was first arrested in October 2016 after a woman came forward accusing him of sexual assault. He was charged but released on bail shortly afterward. Several days later, Cook turned himself in to police after a second woman came forward with a similar story.
He was expelled from UW-Madison in 2017.
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