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Judge Says Prison “Would Be Inappropriate” for Wealthy White Man Convicted of Raping 4 Teens

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Content warning: sexual assault.

A young man who pled guilty and was convicted of raping four teenage girls (when he himself was also a teen) will not face any jail time after the judge declared he thought prison “would be inappropriate” for the rapist.

Why yes, the man in question is white and also wealthy, how did you know?

Christopher Belter pleaded guilty to felony charges including third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse, and misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse. But Judge Matthew J. Murphy III said that after he “agonized” and “prayed” over the case, he told Belter, “It seems to me that a sentence that involves incarceration or partial incarceration isn’t appropriate, so I am going to sentence you to probation.”

Murphy told Belter in court that his probation sentence would be “like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years.” Murphy didn’t elaborate further but it sounds like he’s saying the threat of punishment is enough to keep Belter from committing similar acts in the future. That, it shouldn’t have to be said, is absolutely not the same thing as issuing punishment for crimes already committed.

According to the Washington Post, “The crimes took place between February 2017 and August 2018 at Belter’s parents’ home in a wealthy neighborhood of Lewiston, a few miles outside Niagara Falls. During that time, three 16-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl were assaulted in four separate incidents, according to the judge.”

Belter reportedly assaulted the girls with the assistance of his mother, his stepfather, and a family friend, “who allegedly supplied teen girls with alcohol and marijuana, according to state police.” Their house was deemed a “party house,” while the assistant district attorney clarified during sentencing that this is “not a party house case. It was a house of sexual assault.” (The adults are facing their own misdemeanor charges.)

The acts Belter committed, which took place over the span of many months, are atrocious crimes. The Post writes:

The fourth teen who was assaulted by Belter gave what Murphy described as a “gripping statement” of how she focused on a plant while she was being raped.

“During the rape, he told her to stop being such a baby. She focused her attention on the leaves of the plant as she cried during the attack,” Murphy wrote, according to the News. “The Defendant told her that, if she stopped resisting, it wouldn’t hurt as much.”

The claim that probation will be  “like a sword hanging over [Belter’s] head” is especially ludicrous because he had already violated his parole multiple times leading up to this sentencing.

Belter was initially convicted in 2019. The judge at the time, Sara Sheldon, who is now retired, gave him two years of interim probation, during which time he was allowed to apply for youthful offender status, which would have reduced his potential prison time and also allowed him to avoid having to register as a sex offender. (Murphy ended up denying his youthful offender status, which most took to mean he was bound for prison. He was facing a maximum sentence of eight years.)

During those two years, Belter installed software on his computer that allowed him to view pornography, which was a violation of the terms of his probation. You might think that would have factored into Murphy’s ultimate decision as to whether probation was more “appropriate” than prison—which, again, he said he “agonized” over—but apparently not.

One of the victims’ attorneys told reporters they were “deeply disappointed” in the sentence and that “justice was not done.”

“My client threw up in the ladies room following the sentencing,” the attorney said. “If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family, in my experience … he would surely have been sentenced to prison.”

(via The Washington Post, image: Unsplash)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.