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Man spared prison despite pleading guilty to sexual assault of 4 teens; Judge says, "incarceration isn’t appropriate"

Man spared prison despite pleading guilty to sexual assault of 4 teens; Judge says, "incarceration isn’t appropriate"

Issuing a lengthy list of probation rules for the Lockport resident, Jude Murphy warned that "It's going to be like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years.

A 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to rape and sexual abuse in 2019 has dodged jail time. Instead, Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy III sentenced 20-year-old Christopher Belter to eight years of probation saying he a prison sentence was "inappropriate" in this case. "I agonized — 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," explained Judge Murphy, according to WKBW. "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."

Issuing a lengthy list of probation rules for the Lockport resident, Jude Murphy warned that "It's going to be like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years." In addition to this, Belter must also register as a sex offender and would return to court on December 2 for a Sex Offender Registration Act hearing which will determine whether he is a level one, two, or three sex offender. That being said, he still got no jail time for the horrendous crimes he committed at his family's Lewiston home between February 2017 and August 2018. 



 

According to local authorities, Belter assaulted three 16-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl in four separate incidents when he was 16 or 17. The crime happened during parties that were facilitated by the defendant's 50-year-old mother, Tricia Vacanti, 56-year-old stepfather, Gary Sullo, and family friend, Jessica Long, 42. According to The Hill, the three adults have been accused of supplying alcohol, marijuana to the teen girls and grooming them for sexual assaults by Belter. They now face charges in Lewiston Town Court for child endangerment and unlawfully dealing with a child, reports Buffalo News.

As for Belter, he pleaded guilty to felony charges that included third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse as well as two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse in 2019. He faced a maximum of 8 years of prison time but Judge Murphy handed him eight years of probation. It isn't the first time, the 20-year-old was granted probation. Back in 2019, now-retired Judge Sara Sheldon gave him similar warnings and placed him on two years' interim probation to help him limit his sentence to four years, gain youthful offender status, and prevent him from being registered as a sex offender.



 

Just like Murphy, Sheldon too predicted that Belter would find it very difficult to comply with the restrictions and rules but as it turns out he did not. Just last month, he admitted to violating probation by installing software on his personal computer which helped bypass a content block preventing him from viewing porn. While he was denied youthful offender status and sentenced as an adult by Murphy, there were consequences despite him flouting the previous probations. The attorney representing one of the victims, Steven Cohen, was absolutely enraged with the decision. 

"The assumption when Judge Murphy denied youthful offender status was that Chris Belter would receive prison time," Cohen told The Washington Post. "There were absolutely no consequences for the defendant’s repeated violations of Judge Sheldon’s terms of probation." He added, "Justice was not done here today. For an adult to get away with these crimes is unjust. If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family, it is my belief he wouldn’t have received the original plea deal, and he would surely have been sentenced to prison," he added in a statement to The Hill. 

"The greater harm however, is that the sentencing in this matter would seem to perpetuate the insane belief that rape is not a serious crime and that its occurrence results in little consequence to the perpetrator. Our society needs to do much better," he noted, adding, "My client, one of four of Belter’s known victims, threw up in the ladies' room following the sentencing."

Representative cover image soure: Getty | Photo by naruecha jenthaisong

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