An 18-year-old former Norman High School student accused of rape entered a no contest plea in a case that prompted a grassroots effort to change how school administrators handle sexual assault allegations at the school.
Details of the Charges
Tristan Killman-Hardin, 18, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on two counts of first degree rape this week. However, on Monday morning, as part of a negotiated plea, the young man pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, to the charges. A no contest plea functions much like a guilty plea, but allows the defendant to refrain from admitting guilt. Instead, in a no contest plea, the defendant acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction should the case go to trial.
In exchange for his plea, Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley handed down two concurrent 10 year sentences, but suspended the last 8. In other words, the defendant is sentenced to serve 2 years in prison followed by 8 years of probation. After his release, he will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
National Support for the Victim
The case made national headlines when students at the high school formed a group #YesAllDaughters to protest the treatment of the rape victim. The group says that when the girl returned to school after the assault, she was bullied out of school while Killman-Hardin, who was also accused of raping two other students, remained in class. He has not been charged in either of the other two alleged rapes.
In the case for which he was convicted, Killman-Hardin offered to give a heavily intoxicated 16-year-old girl a ride home from a party. When she passed out, he raped her and recorded the assault on his cell phone. Evidence in the case included the rape video, which showed the girl to be unconscious, as well as a cell phone audio recording in which a teen purported to be Killman-Hardin admitted to a friend that he knew the girl was unconscious and unable to either give or deny consent when he raped her.
Fighting Rape Charges in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, rape is classified as either first degree or second degree rape. Although both are classified as Tier III sex offenses mandating lifetime sex offender registration, second degree rape is the lesser offense. Commonly known as statutory rape, second degree rape typically involves sex with a willing partner who is legally unable to provide consent.
First degree rape includes 7 specific acts of rape, including sex with a person under the age of 14, regardless of consent; forcible rape; rape by instrumentation resulting in bodily harm; and rape of an unconscious victim.
Learn more about Oklahoma rape laws, penalties, and possible criminal defense strategies by talking with an experienced Oklahoma rape attorney.