A white man who pleaded guilty to raping and sexually abusing four teenage girls will not receive any jail time, a judge ruled. According to The Buffalo News, Judge Matthew J. Murphy III placed 20-year-old Christopher Belter on probation for eight years because he said a prison sentence for this case “would be inappropriate.”
“I agonized, I’m not ashamed to say I actually prayed over what the appropriate sentence would be,” Murphy told Belter, adding that his probationary status would be “like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years.”
In 2018, Belter was charged with first-degree rape, sexual abuse and third-degree rape, however, in 2019, he pleaded guilty to two felonies — attempted first-degree sexual abuse and third-degree rape — and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse, which are both misdemeanors.
His victims included three 16-year-old girls and one 15-year-old girl. Belter sexually assaulted the girls on four separate occasions at the “party house,” which is his parents’ home that is located in one of Lewiston, New York’s most expensive neighborhoods.
Belter’s mother, stepfather and a family friend helped to groom the victims with marijuana and alcohol before the sexual assaults took place. They have pleaded not guilty to related charges of unlawfully dealing with a child and child endangerment.
The judge’s ruling this week shocked Belter’s victims and their attorneys. “My client threw up in the ladies’ room following the sentencing,” Steven M. Cohen, a lawyer for one of the victims, told NBC News. He also stated that he was “deeply disappointed in the sentencing.”
“I have been practicing law for over 30 years,” Cohen said. “If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family, in my experience he wouldn’t have received the original plea deal, and he would surely have been sentenced to prison.”
Belter’s next court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 2, where he will be rated under the Sex Offender Registration Act.