A New York man who pleaded guilty to rape has now walked free following a shock ruling.
20-year-old Christopher Belter of Lewiston pleaded guilty to rape and sex abuse back in 2019, having stood accused of attacks on four teenage girls. It’s understood that some of the survivors were in the courtroom when the sentencing was handed down.
Facing an eight-year prison sentence, Belter was instead given eight years probation by Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy, who claimed to have ‘agonised’ over his decision. Belter, who must now register as a sex offender, will face no jail time.
As reported by WKBW, Judge Murphy stated that he believed prison time would be ‘inappropriate’:
I agonised — I’m not ashamed to say that I actually prayed over what is the appropriate sentence in this case, because there was great pain. There was great harm — there were multiple crimes committed in the case.
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.
Outlining a lengthy list of probation terms for Belter – which includes random polygraph and drug tests and no overnight trips – Judge Murphy warned him:
It’s going to be like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years.
Belter was 17 back in 2018 when he was charged with first-degree rape, third-degree rape and sexual abuse involving 15 and 16-year-old girls at his family home in Lewiston.
A survivor present in the courtroom was reportedly visibly upset by the decision to give Belter prison time, for which Judge Murphy offered no further explanation.
Steven M. Cohen, a lawyer for a survivor known only as M.M., stated that his client had been left ‘deeply disappointed’ by the judge’s decision, telling The New York Times that she ‘threw up in the ladies room following the sentencing’.
Cohen went on to emphasise that, ‘if Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family’ he ‘would surely have been sentenced to prison’, adding:
The truth of what went on and what he did to his victims is far more egregious than the charges he pleaded to.
Belter will reportedly return to court on December 2 for a Sex Offender Registration Act hearing, at which point it will be determined whether he will be classed as a level one, two or three sex offender.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas
Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on their website or on their free helpline 0808 800 5005, open 9am–5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 8am–8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am–2pm Saturdays