Air Force Cadet Avoids Prison with Plea Deal in Rape Case

Gavel at rest

An Air Force cadet accused of sexually assaulting a woman on Boulder's University Hill last year will avoid prison after taking an "11th hour" plea deal Tuesday, three weeks before he was scheduled to stand trial.

Jack Warmolts, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and unlawful sexual contact in Boulder District Court.

His victim, in letter read aloud in court, took no position on the agreement, but said she felt "small and silenced by the plea bargain process."

Warmolts is due to be sentenced Jan. 31, but as part of the agreement, attorneys stipulated he will spend one year in the Boulder County Jail followed by 10 years of sex-offender intensive supervised probation.

He'll also have to register as a sex offender.

Warmolts had been scheduled to stand trial beginning Nov. 14 on two counts of sexual assault, and those charges were dismissed as part of the deal.

Officials at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs said Warmolts was still enrolled as of Tuesday, but noted disenrollment proceedings will be initiated once paperwork from the plea deal is submitted by prosecutors.

Warmolts is the second Air Force cadet to either plead guilty or be found guilty in a Boulder sex assault case in the past year.

Former cadet Mark Ryerson was found guilty by a jury last October of sexual assault for raping a fellow cadet while the two were at a party in Boulder. He, too, was spared prison, receiving a sentence of six months in jail and 10 years of probation.

Lenient sentencing in sexual assault cases has been in the spotlight nationally in recent months -- and in Boulder County.

Brock Turner, who was convicted of raping an unconscious woman in California, was released from jail last month after serving three months, while Austin Wilkerson, a former University of Colorado student convicted of sexual assault, received a work-release and probation sentence in Boulder.

While Warmolts still will go through a pre-sentence investigation and psycho-sexual evaluation before his January sentencing, the plea deal largely takes sentencing out of the judge's hands.

In addition, second-degree assault is a Class 4 felony that has a maximum prison sentence of six years and is not subject to Colorado's indeterminate sentencing laws for sex offenders.

Victim 'disempowered' by deal

Boulder attorney John Clune is representing the victim, who has since moved away and was not present at Tuesday's hearing. But he read a letter the woman wrote in which she said she was neither for nor against the "11th hour" deal, yet she felt "disempowered" by not being able to go to trial.

"I cannot deny I feel small and silenced by the plea bargain process," the victim wrote. "I was ready and committed to showing up to that arena... I felt powerful and I had purpose."

According to an arrest-warrant affidavit, the woman told police she was sexually assaulted between the evening of April 18 and the morning of April 19, 2015, while drinking with a group of people, including Warmolts.

On that night, witnesses told police she and Warmolts -- who did not know each other -- became separated from the group.

The woman does not remember the night, and Warmolts told police they had consensual sexual contact. But a sexual assault nurse told police that the injuries to the woman were not consistent with Warmolts' version of events, and his DNA was found on the victim.

In her letter, the victim said she had been preparing to testify for months, and said more than getting a guilty verdict, she wanted Warmolts to stand trial.

"I wanted justice, and justice for me was far more than hearing 'guilty,'" the victim wrote, later adding: "I wanted 12 people to make a decision about his actions."

Warmolts -- who remains out of custody on $25,000 bond -- and defense attorney Scott Jurdem did not comment on the case Tuesday.

'Very tough and appropriate plea disposition'

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett said his office takes many factors into consideration when weighing plea deals, including the defendants' willingness to accept responsibility.

"Every serious felony case is processed very carefully and we will make some sort of plea disposition in some cases if we think it is warranted by the facts," Garnett said.

Garnett said the fact that Warmolts was willing to plead guilty in open court and admit what he did made him a candidate for a deal that involved probation.

"The willingness of a defendant to take responsibility is critical for treatment," Garnett said. "He agreed to what we consider to be a very tough and appropriate plea disposition."

But the victim, in her letter, said she did not believe Warmolts' guilty plea meant in any way that he was taking responsibility.

"His words are weightless to me," she wrote. "You cannot bargain or barter the truth."

The victim did say she felt the convictions and sentence were a step forward, considering many sex assault cases are never even heard, and said she was "incredibly grateful" to the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.

"Today certainly counts as a win for sexual assault survivors," she wrote.

Boulder District Judge Ingrid Bakke asked Clune to thank his client for the letter before ultimately accepting the plea deal.

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