20-year-old Christopher Belter will not spend a single day in jail after being sentenced to eight years of probation.
Trigger warning: This article contains themes of rape, sexual assault that some readers may find distressing
A 20-year-old white man will not go to jail despite pleading guilty to sex abuse and rape of four underage girls. Christopher Belter was sentenced to just eight years of probation, sparking outrage. Belter pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree sex abuse, third-degree attempted abuse, and third-degree rape against four underage girls for crimes committed in an 18-month span at parties inside his family's mansion in Lewiston, New York. Belter, who is white and hails from an infuencial family, faced eight years in prison but won't spend a single day behind bars. The prosecution was shocked by the verdict. "Justice was not done today,” said prosecuting attorney Steve Cohen, reported CBS News.
A young woman, referred to as MM in court filings was disgusted with the verdict and threw up in the ladies room following the sentence. "I completely broke down. It was as if I was being victimized all over again," said MM. MM was 16 when she was raped and sexually abused by Belter. "It's just going to make him more comfortable doing this in the future," said MM.
A NY man who pleaded guilty to rape and sexual assault charges won't face any jail time after a judge ruled it "would be inappropriate."— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 17, 2021
20-year-old Christopher Belter initially faced a max. of 8 years in prison for assaulting 4 teenage girls during parties at his parents' home. pic.twitter.com/9T87FTrKEI
Judge Matthew Murphy stunned the proseuction by ruling that "incarceration … isn't appropriate," before sentencing Belter to eight years of probation. Murphy claimed to have been 'agonized' by the decision before delivering the verdict. “I agonized — I’m not ashamed to say that I actually prayed over what is the appropriate sentence in this case,” said Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy, reported NBC News. “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.”
Judge Murphy's decision could see Belter sexually assault again, says MM. "This is a pattern. He will offend again," said MM. "I will have to live with this for the rest of my life, knowing that he's walking the streets and that another girl can be a victim of his any day now. It's terrifying." She said in no uncertain terms that the Judge Murphy had failed the victims. "I don't think that any of the victims or myself will find that closure until we know that he's locked up, and the judge failed us there. He victimized us all over again. He is putting us through hell," she said.
Christopher Belter, now 20, admitted to sexually assaulting four teenagers in a wealthy New York State neighborhood.— The Recount (@therecount) November 18, 2021
Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy called jail time "inappropriate" and instead sentenced him to 8 years probation. pic.twitter.com/WA7FkdSckJ
Prosecuting attorney Steve Cohen stated justice was denied to the victims. “He is privileged. He comes from money. He is white. He was sentenced as an adult, appropriately — for an adult to get away with these crimes is unjust,” said Cohen. "I've been a trial lawyer for over 30 years. If this individual was not a rich white kid from a privileged background and an influential family, he would be in prison right now," he added.
MM said she has no regrets coming forward to speak out against Belter but pointed out that the verdict makes victims of sexual assault lose faith in the justice system. "If I were to be someone viewing this right now, looking at this case as a victim of rape or sexual assault — I mean, I would think what's the point in coming forward?" she asked. "Why put yourself through the painful experience of testifying when there's not going to be a good outcome?"
Judge Matthew J. Murphy of Niagara County gave Christopher Belter - a man who plead guilty to assaulting 4 teenager girls - PROBATION. If you’re ever wondering why survivors don’t come forward. Women will never be safe. But we already knew that. https://t.co/fmv3gWGuz5— Elizabeth Reaser (@reasereaser) November 18, 2021
Belter's mother, Tricia Vacanti, his stepfather, Gary E. Sullo, and family friend, Jessica M. Long, are accused of supplying alcohol and marijuana to the underage teenagers to groom them for the assaults. They have pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and unlawfully dealing with a child.
If you are being subjected to sexual assault, or know of anyone who is, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673)