After admitting to raping his classmate in 2020, former University of Missouri student sentenced

A former University of Missouri student who pleaded guilty in July to raping a fellow student in January 2020 will spend the next seven years in the department of corrections, among other conditions of his conviction.

Families for both the defendant, Giovanni Hawver, and his victim, Christine Burris, filled the courtroom Monday as Boone County Division 3 Judge Kevin Crane set the sentence. Prosecution sought 10 years, while Hawver’s attorney, Chris Slusher sought the five-year minimum for first-degree rape as Hawver will have to also register for the rest of his life as a sex offender and also will have lifelong probation and parole check-ins.

Per sentencing guidelines, Hawver will be in the Department of Corrections for at least six years before his release, barring any appeals that could change his sentence.

Burris and her father, William Burris, Hawver’s grandfather, Bob Hernandez, who was a former Kansas City Council member and Hawver all read statements to the court. Prosecution also took testimony from Columbia Police Department Detective Renee Wilbarger.

“In all honesty, I don’t think I will ever know the true extent to how this assault has changed my life. What I do know is that it is incredibly rare for victims and survivors to get a chance to speak like I am today,” Burris said, adding that as a result of Hawver’s actions, it has impacted not only her mental health, but her ability to finish school to become a nurse and the associated financial impacts of her work to gain higher education.

“(My daughter) has remained strong and remains committed to protecting future women from your behavior,” William Burris said.

Hernandez said that he has seen a change in his grandson in the years after the assault and that he recognizes the severity of his actions. This was echoed by Hawver.

“I can see how badly my actions have affected you … and I know my words will not heal your wounds, but I want to extend them to you,” he said, addressing Burris.

Through testimony, prosecution worked to show a pattern of behavior, rather than a one-time incident. This was based on photographic and video evidence obtained from Hawver’s devices and statements relayed to Wilbarger by two other victims, who while not raped, did experience sexual assault. The two other victims did not seek further prosecution, Wilbarger said.

Slusher pushed back on testimony and victim impact statements to show that Hawver has owned up to his actions and is willing to accept all of the consequences through his guilty plea, rather than go to a trial.

Through his admission of guilt, Hawver had sex with Burris in late January 2020. She was intoxicated and thus could not give consent. It was not forcible, but Burris was incapacitated due to her intoxication.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: University of Missouri student sentenced after guilty plea to rape

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