The Story of Albert Wilson
A Black male accused of raping a White woman faced a White judge and all White jury
(Author’s Note: The alleged victim in Albert Wilson’s case is not publicly known at this time. She will be referred to by the alias “Ruby” throughout the article.)
Sometime during November 2016, then-Kansas University student Albert Wilson was taken from his home to a police station for an interview.
Wilson confirmed his identity in photos taken from a surveillance camera at a bar a month prior. A year later, Wilson was arrested and arraigned for the rape of “Ruby”.
Wilson’s case has some inconsistencies and legal missteps. Many have compared it to a very similar and popular case which brings up questions about racial biases, discrimination, and equality & justice.
Two similar cases with vastly different results
Brock Allen Turner, then-college student at Stanford University, sexually assaulted Chanel Miller outside of a fraternity house.
Turner had no prior convictions.
Facts about Turner’s case
- There were two witnesses — who I applaud for their heroism and immediate action — Swedish graduate students, Peter Lars Jonsson and Carl-Fredrik Arndt saw Turner on top of Miller. Turner tried to escape but were apprehended by Jonsson & Arndt until cops arrived.
- Miller’s DNA was found on the left and right hands of Turner as well as under the fingernails of his right fingers.
- Turner was sentenced to six months (instead of the 2–6 years minimum recommendations). He only served three of the six months with three-years of probation.
- Turner was required to register as a sex offender and resides with his parents earning minimum wage.
In September 2016, Wilson (20 at the time) went out to a local bar Jayhawk Cafe also known as The Hawk. Although the bar requires all patrons to be 21 — it was known for having underaged students attend. Wilson was able to enter with a friend’s ID. He met Ruby (17 at the time) who would go on to later accuse him of sexual assault and rape in October 2019. She claims she was sexually assaulted in a dark room in the bar and was coerced into going back to his place and raped there.
Wilson had no prior convictions.
Facts about Wilson’s case
- No evidence of pubic hair or bodily fluids around the vaginal region. DNA from Wilson was discovered on the accusers chest to which Wilson admitted to kissing her there.
- Photos of bruises were taken on her inner thighs and presented as evidence.
- Wilson had a court appointed attorney.
- Wilson was charged with two counts of rape. One count was ultimately dropped since there was no overwhelming evidence.
- There were no witnesses during the alleged attack that took place in the basement of the bar, nor the time Wilson and Ruby spent walking to and from and at Wilson’s house.
- Wilson was sentenced to 12-years in prison with a lifetime of supervision post-release.
- His earliest possible release date as it stands is May 1, 2029.
Turner got off light
Turner’s case had national coverage and people were understandably troubled by the events that transpired. Those who wanted to show Turner leniency carved out an image of him as an athletic swimmer who had so much ahead of him, but made a tragic mistake. His dad in particular had poor-choice of words to describe the act of the assault.
“20 minutes of action”
Those 4 words would live in infamy. He was heavily criticized, because it was the manifestation of justification for people who defend rape culture.
Social media, on the other hand, felt the law wasn’t coming down hard enough. People weren’t going to let Turner live it down or forget about what he had done to Miller. Callie Marie Rennison, PhD, a Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver even placed Turner’s mugshot next to the textbook definition of rape in her [new] edition of Introduction to Criminal Justice: Systems, Diversity, and Change.
Wilson was handed a heavy sentence
The caveat to both cases in terms of sentencing is the locations where the incidents occurred.
In Kansas, Wilson’s 12-year sentence was the lowest end of sentencing the judge could hand down (even for a first time offender). Forrest Lowry, Wilson’s court appointed attorney, asked the judge to depart from the state’s sentencing guidelines to grant Wilson probation, or at least a shorter prison sentence; that request was denied.
Turner’s case, on the other hand, occurred in California which has considerably lower sentencing guidelines for first time offenders which is punishable by imprisonment for up to three, six, or eight years.
After examining the case including legal missteps made by the Lowery and other factors — there’s an argument to be made Wilson’s fate was sealed from the very beginning; other elements might tell a different story of what happened.
A step-by-step account of what occurred that night
The only information I’ve been able to gather from the case was compiled from Lawrence-Journal World. You can find the latest news on the trial here (there are links to the previous developments in the case as well.)
Other news outlets reported on the case but they don’t offer any new pieces of information or any new evidence.
It’s been difficult trying to make sense of it all, but this article’s aims to put together a somewhat presentable and reasonable timeline of events which is taken from the affidavit and makes some assumptions about the time during and in between the events.
Wilson and Ruby entering the bar
Surveillance footage from the bar puts Albert and a friend waiting in line to get into Jayhawk Café also known as “The Hawk”. Daniel Carroll — a witness that worked at — observed Wilson and his friend, and Ruby and her cousin enter the bar without being carded or stopped. At an unspecified time later, surveillance shows Ruby pulling Wilson by the hand into the “Boom Boom Room” which is a dark and crowded dance floor in the basement of the Jayhawk Café.
Wilson and Ruby at the bar
During testimony, Ruby claimed she was intoxicated and an unidentified male corroborated this describing her as so intoxicated that at one point he had to hold her up at the bar to keep her from falling. When asked by the prosecutor about what happened in the dark room, she stated Wilson kissed her and then assaulted her.
“I never said yes, or that I wanted that,” she said. “I was really drunk. I just, kind of, was there.”
Wilson disputes her version of events. He confirms they were together on the dance floor but denies placing Ruby’s hands in his pants but admitting to putting his hands under Ruby’s skirt to which he says she didn’t refuse.
Wilson and Ruby leaving the bar
Accounts of what occurred diverge here again which can be read here.
To sum it up, the article details the pair leaving the bar and mentions surveillance showing — this time — Wilson as the one leading and pulling Ruby’s hand through the crowded bar and outside. According to Wilson’s testimony, he told her he was going home and she could come if she wanted, she said, “OK”.
The article mentions cameras showing the pair holding hands around the corner and down 14th Street hill toward Wilson’s house, two blocks away at 1340 Kentucky St. (There are no mentions of Ruby stumbling or her apparent state.)
Ruby’s account differs. She testified she left unwillingly and was “stumbling” out of the bar; Wilson claims she merely stumbled due to a crack in the ground and the steepness of the hill.
The call to his friend
Either outside of the club or on the way home Wilson makes a call to his friend.
The events at Wilson’s house
The pair went to Wilson’s house a couple of blocks away. There, according to Ruby, she told Wilson, “No, I’m too drunk, I can’t do this,” but Wilson ignored her pleas, held her down, and raped her.
Wilson was adamant he didn’t rape her. According to Wilson although they were gone for about 15–20 minutes — they only spent about 5 minutes at his house engaging in kissing and says his friend from the bar texted, “where you at” and called him. Wilson told the girl he was leaving and she allegedly gave him a “mad look”.
Wilson’s friend returns his call
Assumed to have been placed while Wilson and Ruby were inside of Wilson’s house.
Returning to the bar
What is factual is Wilson and Ruby returned to the bar, only this time, not hand-in-hand.
Ruby and her cousin left and the latter contacted a sorority sister trained to deal with sexual assault.
The following day, Ruby was examined.
The rape kit found no pubic hair or other bodily secretions but there were bruises on Ruby’s inner thighs.
“I told the police I didn’t remember because I didn’t want to say anything to incriminate myself at that time” — Albert Wilson during his testimony in court
Wilson initially claimed he had no recollection of what occurred that night but offered his version of events to the courts and denying he raped his accuser.
When Prosecutor Amy McGowan asked why he didn’t tell police what he told the jurors, Wilson replied, “I don’t know how to explain this, but I come from a different background than you, ma’am,” most likely alluding to him being Black and racial prejudices and biases in the U.S. Wilson continued, “I just felt like the police was against me at that point.”
Cultural norms need to change
Wilson still might be guilty after everything is said and done (of a lesser crime), but nevertheless, he deserved effective counsel that would’ve left no stone unturned. After all: he’s still a Black man in the U.S.
There’s some grey area — as with similar cases — and it would be understandable to say he was most in a position of power whether or not he was intoxicated.
Men exert power in most circumstances, and the grey area is attempting to reconcile it in the moment; realizing it when catering to a woman; and stopping immediately upon noticing actions are unwanted even if non-verbal.
Michael Whalen, a Wichita-based appellate attorney now handling Wilson’s case and has pointed out some oversights.
For example, the forensic psychologist John Spiridigliozzi, who evaluated Ruby’s mental health testified for the prosecution, but Whalen claims the results of an assessment Spiridigliozzi conducted were found to be “valid for cautious interpretation of the data,” and his testimony relied heavily upon the report.
Forrest Lowry (the state-appointed attorney) also never filed any pretrial motions and didn’t object to Spiridigliozzi’s testimony during trial. Whalen calls out the psychologist for speculating at times and stating allegations as facts at others.
There’s possibly other things that were overlooked but there’s been no updates on Wilson’s case since early this year in February.
The time they were away from the bar and returned doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Wilson’s friend received a call 12:17 a.m. Google Maps puts 4 minutes of walking time both ways from the bar to Wilson’s house. Wilson had to have made the call prior to arriving at his house, and returning the call. He either returned the call before or after he either forcibly assaulted Ruby or engaged in kissing or other sexual acts. Either way, there’s at least a 5 minute window as Wilson testified.
Reconciling racial discrimination and believing in women
There’s a very strong possibility that both their point-of-views are correct. Wilson may have misjudged her character if she seemed to be acting normal to him. We have no way of knowing if Wilson truly stopped after she asked him as they engaged with each other despite the best estimates of how much time they actually spent with each other. But with being Black in America, he wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt for being mistaken of the situation.
Michael Aaron Persky (who is White) of the Santa Clara Superior Court presiding over Turner’s case not only believed Turner’s version of events, but felt he deserved leniency because he was remorseful (he would later resign after Turner’s sentencing). Persky cited alcohol as “not an excuse” but said it “is a factor that, when trying to assess moral culpability in this situation, is mitigating,” and it was his belief prison would have “a severe impact” and “adverse collateral consequences” on Turner.
Wilson, on the other hand, was facing a White judge and an all White jury mostly comprised of White women. Emmett Till and numerous other Black men have been beaten and lynched for much less. And more recently, police have been used as a threat against Black people and minorities for mundane things such as barbecuing at a park which earned one woman the moniker “BBQ Becky”.
Taken that into consideration, Wilson might’ve been doomed from the very beginning.
However, it’s extremely difficult to make a case against Ruby since she told her sister and another person what occurred right after it happened. That’s what’s (unfairly) asked of women in society when they are attacked.
But Black men are often portrayed as predators versus carefree individuals who want to have fun just like everyone else.
Wilson is attempting to appeal and a website Free Albert Wilson was launched to raise awareness of the case in the hopes of freeing him. It’s going to be a hail mary for Wilson.
Update: Albert Wilson was released since March while a new trial is pending. You can read the details here.