The Big Mac Blog

Baylor fans’ best play with scandal is to keep quiet

Former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu, left, leaves the 10th Court of Appeals with his attorney, William Bratton III, following arguments Wednesday, March, 1, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Ukwuachu was awarded a new trial.
Former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu, left, leaves the 10th Court of Appeals with his attorney, William Bratton III, following arguments Wednesday, March, 1, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Ukwuachu was awarded a new trial. AP

The maligned Baylor football nation won this week when the case that started it all was rewarded with a new trial.

Former Bear defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, who was convicted of sexual assault in August of 2015 and is the player who was beginning of the end of Art Briles, will return to court.

A court of appeals over ruled the judge’s original conviction, and decided that a series of text messages should be allowed as evidence. The thought is the text messages will reveal the sex between Ukwuachu and the then Baylor women’s soccer player was in fact consensual.

This isn’t a win.

It is another example of why prosecutors don’t like move forward on sexual assault cases. Of why too many victims give up and run from a court room.

The father of the victim released a statement to The Dallas Morning News and expressed disappointment in the decision, and that such a ruling enables victim blaming.

He wrote: “Said another way, the order implies the even the mere suggestion of prior sexual contact equals consent for future considerations. While this philosophy is not the law, that is the message that will linger.”

He’s not wrong.

Just as Baylor fans might have felt the slightest bit of relief and justification of defending their former head coach over this ruling, two former Baylor were arrested in connection with a gang rape in 2013. Players Shamycheal Chatman and Tre’Von Armstead were both arrested this week.

One of the prevailing themes about this ordeal from ardent Baylor defenders is that the school’s leadership hastily overreacted to a media storm of negative headlines stemming from exaggerated sexual assault figures. And that specifically the conviction of Ukwuachu was iffy, at best.

The original sentencing by a jury was probation after it found him guilty of one count of assault committed in 2013. Judge Matt Johnson also gave Ukwuachu 180 days in jail, 10 years of felony probation and 400 hours of community service.

Ukwuachu's attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said then he considered the sentence a victory for his client.

This new decision does not mean Ukwuachu is innocent. Nor does it mean he is guilty.

Welcome to the horrendously terrible world of sexual assault trials.

We know he had history of assault stemming from his days at Boise State. We know the first judge found him guilty.

A Texas criminal attorney told me the original ruling and sentencing led him to believe the case not solid, and that the jury had doubts as to Ukwuachu’s guilt. The addition of the text messages as evidence increase Ukwuachu’s chances of avoiding a conviction.

According to the anti-sexual assault organization RAINN, 994 out of every 1,000 sexual assault perpetrators will walk free. Seven out of those 1,000 cases will lead to a felony conviction.

Jon Krakuaer’s best-selling book “Missoula” outlines the many tragic instances of the challenges of convicting a rapist, even when the evidence is overwhelming.

There is a good chance that Ukwuachu will be clear of this charge, yet such a ruling should not exonerate Baylor from its many failures in the need to address sexual assault.

While this problem is hardly endemic to just Baylor, and it extended far beyond that of its football team, this stemmed from an appalling denial of rape. Of even consensual sex. From 2008 to 2011, the school never reported a single rape to the Department of Education.

That type of tragic thinking permeated its way all over the campus. It ultimately led to self-paid investigation that cost well over $1 million, and the departures of key figures Briles, president Ken Starr and AD Ian McCaw.

It also led to a slew of other predictable lawsuits, and outlandish claims that reek more of money grabbing from lawyers to grab cash from a wounded defendant rather than the need to punish rapists.

The loyal Baylor supporter who believes its alma mater’s mistakes are wrongly amplified. That the school is a victim of the current over-blowing media climate that blithely destroys and casually dances to its next target.

Or, my personal favorite, that this whole thing was concocted by ESPN and its need to make Baylor football irrelevant so the ESPN’s Longhorn Network could thrive with a better football team in Austin. If this bout of stupidity were true, why was Art Briles’ lone exclusive interview with ESPN?

The truth remains many people were damaged and hurt, and while the individuals who committed these crimes are ultimately responsible, the university even acknowledged it did not do enough.

There is no appeals court to over-turn that decision.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, @macengelprof