A New York state man who pleaded guilty to raping a several teen girls when he was also a teenager won’t spend any time in prison following a judge’s decision to hand down a sentence of eight years of probation.
Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy said it wouldn’t have been “appropriate” to sentence Christopher Belter, now 20 years old, to prison for the sex crimes committed at his family’s home in the Buffalo suburb of Lewiston, New York, in 2017 and 2018. Belter faced a maximum of eight years in prison.
Murphy sentenced Belter as an adult, denying him youthful offender status after he bypassed monitoring software on his computer to view pornography while he was on probation, WKRC reported.
“I agonized, I’m not ashamed to say that I actually prayed over what is the appropriate sentence in this case,” Murphy said last week. “Because there was great pain. There was great harm. There were multiple crimes committed in the case.”
SNAP, an advocacy group for sexual assault victims, filed a complaint against Murphy in the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct following the ruling.
“The purpose of our court system is to be equitable and fair, and to make sure the punishment fits the crime,” John Bellocchio, a spokesperson for the group, told WKBW.
Bellocchio said that Murphy, who announced he would retire at the end of December, should be immediately suspended.
Belter sexually assaulted four girls, including three 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old in 2017 and 2018. Belter’s mother was also charged with supplying marijuana and alcohol to teens who gathered at the home in the wealthy community not far from Niagara Falls.
Belter plead gulity to charges of rape and sex abuse in 2019. One of Belter’s victims, identified only as M.M. in court documents, was diappointed by the judge’s decison to let her attacker off without prison time, according to her attorney, Steven M. Cohen.
“My client threw up in the ladies room following the sentencing,” Cohen told The New York Times. “If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family” he “would surely have been sentenced to prison.”
Legal analyst Elie Mystal said the ruling was one of the most “disgusting” he’d ever seen. “This is among the most disgusting rulings I’ve ever seen. Wealthy white bit rapes four teenagers, IS CONVICTED, gets no jail time from the judge.”
“Stark reminder of inequity,” wrote “The View” co-host Ana Navarro-Cardenas on Twitter.
“Further proof there are two justice systems in America,” wrote NBC reporter Janelle Fiona Griffith.
Murphy didn’t explain his reasoning in choosing not to sentence Belter to prison time, but said probation will be “like a sword hanging over his head” for the next eight years.
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