Alec Cook, Black Boy, Black Man, Judge Stephen Ehlke, National, News, Race, Sen. Lena Taylor, Sentencing Disparity, sexual assault, UW-Madison -

Lawmaker Blasts Judge Who Sentenced Black Teen to 20 Years for Sexual Assault But Gave White Serial Rapist Just 3 Years

Alec Cook, Black Boy, Black Man, Judge Stephen Ehlke, National, News, Race, Sen. Lena Taylor, Sentencing Disparity, sexual assault, UW-Madison -

Lawmaker Blasts Judge Who Sentenced Black Teen to 20 Years for Sexual Assault But Gave White Serial Rapist Just 3 Years

Sen. Lena Taylor
Sen. Lena Taylor highlighted the disparity in sentencing between Alec Cook’s case and one involving a Black teen charged with the same crime. (Image courtesy of the Wisconsin Legislature)

A Wisconsin state senator had harsh words for a judge who sentenced a former University of Wisconsin-Madison student to three years in prison as punishment for sexually assaulting not one, but three female students.

Judge Stephen Ehlke issued his sentence Thursday, remanding 22-year-old Alec Cook to three years behind bars after the young man pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three women, as well as stalking and choking two others, WGN 9 reported. Cook, who was expelled from the university last June, faced 40 years in jail, but Ehkle let him off with just three.

The sentence was much too lenient for Sen. Lena Taylor, however, who did not hesitate to take the judge to task over his decision. In a statement, the Milwaukee Democrat blasted Ehlke for giving Cook special treatment by letting him off easy. She also questioned the message it sent to Cook’s multiple victims.

“Three years is equal to roughly a seven month sentence for each of Cook’s victims, not to mention the 12 other dropped charges ranging from sexual assault to false imprisonment,” Taylor wrote. “What kind of a message are we sending to these women with this degree of leniency?”

“Judge Ehlke let a serial rapist off the hook, plain and simple,” she added.

The lawmaker noted that Cook was eligible for a 40-year sentence and that the district attorney asked for 19. Yet, for some reason, Ehlke “thought Cook was special,” she said.

Also highlighting the disparity in sentencing, Taylor pointed to the case of Black teen Adore Thomas, who Ehlke sentenced to 20 years for the same crime of sexual assault.

“The question we have to ask is ‘why?’ ” she wrote. “Cook, who kept over 20 journals of detailed information on his would-be victims, got three years, but the same judge got sentenced 16-year-old African-American teen Adore Thomas to 20 years in prison for the sexual assault of one woman.”

“The disparity in sentencing in these cases is deeply troubling,” Taylor continued. “I highly recommend that Judge Ehlke read The Sentencing Project’s report ‘The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparities In State Prisons.’ ”

Per the Wisconsin State Journal, Ehlke struggled “with the right thing to do,” but argued he had to give Cook credit for having no prior record and sparing his victims a trial. He said he hoped the end of the criminal proceedings would “give closure” to the women.

“What I want them to know is I listened to those voices very carefully,” the judge said. “I want them to know that it’s OK if they didn’t agree with me on some of the motions that have been referred to. … But what I do want them to know is I tried my level best in this case and every case that I have before me to be fair to everyone.”


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