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"I don't feel like I settled" Rachel Wilson responds to Elliott plea agreement


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Rachel Wilson before speaking at the SANE board meeting on Oct. 9 Courtesy Photo 

After nearly three years fighting to be heard, Rachel Wilson got the justice she sought, just not in the way she expected.

"This was a huge success," Wilson said. "I don't feel like I settled." 

The man Wilson said sexually assaulted her Aug. 31, 2016, former Central Michigan University Student Government Association President Ian Elliott, accepted a plea deal June 24. Elliott was facing charges in two separate sexual assault cases. He was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of assault with the intent to penetrate in Wilson's complaint. Elliott was charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct after Landrea Blackmore reported that he assaulted her in 2014 at a Phi Kappa Tau fraternity party.

Elliott will plead no contest to one count of criminal sexual conduct of the third degree. The minimum sentence is one year and one day in prison. Elliott will also be on Michigan's registered sex offender list for the rest of his life. 

The other two charges in Wilson' case, and the charge in Blackmore's case will be dismissed. 

After the agreement was reached Wilson said she breathed a sigh of relief. The settlement ends almost three years of legal battles, disappointments and her finally getting the opportunity to tell her story publicly. 

"You know when you're a kid and you're in the ocean and a wave hits you, and as soon as you come up for a good breath, another wave hits you?" she said. "That is what this past three years has felt like." 

A fight for justice

On the night of Aug. 31, 2016, Wilson said she went to a local bar with a friend and met Elliott. Later, he took her to his house, where she said she began vomiting repeatedly and passed out. Wilson thinks she was drugged that night. 

She said Elliott sexually assaulted her after she regained consciousness.

After the assault, Wilson contacted CMU's Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity to move forward with an investigation. The investigation concluded in December 2016, and the Office of Student Conduct chose to expel Elliott.

In January 2017, Elliott was arrested and arraigned after Wilson pursued charges against him. A preliminary hearing took place in February 2018, and she was ready to go to trial in May. Interim prosecutor Robert Holmes dismissed Wilson's case in April 2018 due to what he called insufficient evidence.

She thought her journey to justice would end there. 

In October 2018, Wilson told her story to Central Michigan Life. She is grateful for the amount of positive feedback she received after the article was published. 

Wilson is also happy with the response the CMU community has had since her story came out. CMU President Bob Davies responded a week later with an open letter to the campus community.

"We have a choice. We can sit and say, 'This doesn’t impact me, and I can’t do anything about it,'" Davies wrote. "Or, we can lead. We can set a path for change and make a difference. I choose the latter, and I am asking you to stand with me and be active in addressing the root causes of this epidemic."

Davies appointed a Title IX Advisory Board, which comprised representatives from multiple offices and organizations on campus. He asked Wilson to serve on the advisory board.

On Oct. 31, Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a motion in Isabella County to reinstate the charges. A visiting judge denied the request to reinstate the charges on Dec. 18, because the only way charges could be reinstated was if there was a clinical error, fraud or a mistake in the original case.

Two days later, on Dec. 20, 2018, the Michigan Attorney General's Office filed new charges against Elliott. A preliminary hearing was held on Feb. 12, 2019, where Wilson and three other women shared their experiences with Elliott that involved sexual assault, drugging and violence. Blackmore, who spoke at that hearing, filed charges against Elliott on March 1. After the preliminary hearing, the judge bound Wilson's case over to the Isabella County Circuit Court. The case was set to go to trial July 8, 2019.

Unexpected agreement

Wilson said she knew there was a settlement conference scheduled for June 24, but she believed it was just a formality. She expected to take her case to trial.

"It was made clear that (Elliott's defense) wouldn't accept a deal that involves anything other than second degree (criminal sexual conduct)," she said. 

When Wilson was contacted by the prosecutor and victim advocate, who wanted to put her on a conference call, she was shocked. The defense suggested the plea agreement with Elliott pleading no contest to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. 

"If we had gone to trial on July 8, even if we got a guilty verdict, the jail time could have been the exact same as this," she said. "This deal had all the components we wanted to see if he was convicted at a jury trial."

Elliott's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 2. Wilson will have the opportunity to read a victim impact statement during the hearing. 

"This is the first time I'll be able to take the stand and say whatever I want to say," Wilson said.

Blackmore's case will be dismissed, but as part of the plea agreement, she will also read a victim impact statement. 

Another stipulation in the agreement was for Wilson to forgo her right to restitution. She said she was thankful this was a part of the agreement.

"It makes the statement that I was never in this for money," Wilson said. "I was only in this so (Elliott) would be held accountable for what he's done."

Although she was prepared for trial, Wilson is relieved. The trial would've taken eight hours every day for two weeks, and she said it would've been incredibly stressful.  She hopes the sentencing will provide a sense of closure for her, and then she can move on with her life. Wilson said she is ready to have a normal, boring life, where she isn't constantly worrying about the trial.

"My main motivation was to finish this fight," she said. "It felt like a full-time job for me."

Wilson said she wants anyone who can come to attend the sentencing. She and Blackmore are asking those in attendance to wear turquoise to represent sexual assault awareness. 

"We would really appreciate it if anyone could come and see us give these statements," Wilson said. "It would mean the world to both of us to know that we're not alone in that courtroom when we do this."

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