Man sentenced to more than 12 years for raping teen he met at Lawrence college bar
photo by: Sara Shepherd
Story updated at 10:17 a.m. Thursday
A former University of Kansas student was sentenced to prison Wednesday for raping a teen he met at a bar near the campus.
Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny ordered Albert N. Wilson, 23, of Wichita, to 147 months, or just over 12 years, in prison. She said that will be followed by lifetime post-release supervision and he must register as a sexual offender.
For a person with no criminal history — as in Wilson’s case — Wilson’s sentence is the lowest end of what’s called for by Kansas sentencing guidelines for rape. His appointed attorney, Forrest Lowry, had asked the judge to depart from sentencing guidelines and grant Wilson probation, or at least a shorter prison sentence, but that request was denied.
On Jan. 10, a jury convicted Wilson of one count of rape by force or fear. The rape and the encounter that led up to it happened on a Saturday night in September 2016.
Testimony from trial
Wilson and the then-17-year-old victim met inside the Jayhawk Cafe, known as the Hawk, 1340 Ohio St. Both were underage — Wilson used a friend’s ID to get in, and the girl wasn’t carded at all.
Wilson was a KU student at the time. The girl was a high school student from the Kansas City area, visiting her cousin at KU.
The two met in the line to get into the Boom Boom Room — the dark, crowded dance floor in the basement of the Hawk.
The victim testified at trial that she’d been drinking beforehand and that Wilson first lifted her skirt and assaulted her on the dance floor. She said he then led her, stumbling, out of the bar and to his home a couple of blocks away.
There, she repeatedly told him, “No, I’m too drunk, I can’t do this,” but Wilson held her down and raped her, she said. She then returned to the bar and reconnected with her cousin, and went to a hospital for a sexual assault examination the following day.
In asking for a lighter sentence, Lowry called the case “a sad situation for everyone.”
More than two dozen supporters of Wilson attended the hearing. Several friends and relatives spoke on his behalf, describing a “selfless” young man with good character, a good work ethic and big goals for his life.
Wilson was a Wichita Southeast High School football player who first got an associate degree from a community college before transferring to KU. Lowry said Wilson wanted to work as a sports journalist and that before that night at the Hawk and the ensuing charges and conviction, he was realizing his dream of graduating from KU.
In his written motion, Lowry emphasized that Wilson was just 20 and the woman just 17 when the incident occurred; and that Wilson testified that he thought she wanted to have sex with him, though ultimately they only engaged in sex acts other than intercourse. Lowry pointed out the incident involved no weapon and no threats, and he argued that DNA evidence did not corroborate the woman’s report that Wilson had intercourse with her.
“It was a chance meeting. Obviously my client misread what was going on,” Lowry said in court. “…If there was ever a case that deserved a departure of any kind, I think this is it.”
While forensic testing found no seminal fluid on the girl’s clothing or vaginal swab, that doesn’t necessarily mean sexual intercourse did not occur, Kansas Bureau of Investigation technicians testified during the trial. Photos from the sexual assault exam the girl got at a hospital the next day corroborated her account that Wilson held down and bruised her legs while he raped her on his bed, the state argued at trial.
Wilson spoke briefly on Wednesday.
He told the judge he was not a bad person and asked her to do anything she could to help him via a lighter sentence.
“I’m sorry for the whole situation,” he said.
The victim did not attend Wilson’s sentencing.
Prosecutor Amy McGowan spoke on her behalf, saying the woman has just as many people supporting her outside the courtroom.
While Wilson’s future has been impacted by the situation, it’s important to remember that the victim’s has been, as well, McGowan said, noting that the offense robbed the victim of “the person that she would go on to become.”
“What he did to her violated and changed her,” McGowan said.
McGowan said the man of character whom Wilson’s supporters described was not the person the victim met at the bar before she was led away and raped.
“The defendant’s behavior that night was very predatory,” she said.
In sentencing Wilson within the state’s guidelines for the crime, Pokorny said she had heard the evidence at trial and that the jury made a decision to convict Wilson of a high-level felony.
“You and your family may not agree with the verdict, but the verdict came back as guilty,” Pokorny said.
“This offense is a rape.”