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Man Who Raped 4 Teen Girls Is Let Go With No Prison Time | "I'll have to live with this, knowing he's walking the streets"

Man Who Raped 4 Teen Girls Is Let Go With No Prison Time | "I'll have to live with this, knowing he's walking the streets"

Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy III sentenced 20-year-old Christopher Belter to eight years of probation on Tuesday saying a prison sentence in the case "would be inappropriate."

Trigger warning: This article contains details of rape and sexual assault that the readers may find disturbing.

A New York man was spared jail time despite pleading guilty to rape and sexual abuse for assaulting four teenage girls during parties. Instead, Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy III sentenced 20-year-old Christopher Belter to eight years of probation on Tuesday saying a prison sentence in the case "would be inappropriate." This means Belter would not spend a day behind bars for the horrendous crimes he committed at his family's home in Lewiston from 2017 to 2018. Naturally, the decision left Attorney Steve Cohen, who represents one of the victims in the case, outraged.

Apparently, Judge Murphy sentenced Belter as an adult after denying him youthful offender status for violating his probation after bypassing the monitoring software on his computer to view pornography, reports KVOA. That being said, he ultimately got no prison time or any punishment for violating the previous probation. "He is privileged. He comes from money. He is White," said Cohen who noted that Belter faced "zero consequences" for his actions. "He’s being sentenced as an adult, appropriately. And for an adult to get away with these crimes without doing jail time is unjust."



 

 

Some of Belter's victims, who were present in court during his sentencing, were left upset and in tears as the decision was being read out. "I believe she’s in the bathroom throwing up right now," expressed Cohen. "Excuse me."

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. 

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 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.



 

The crimes took place between February 2017 and August 2018 when the perpetrator was 16 or 17 according to The Washington Post. Authorities said that three 16-year-old girls and one 15-year-old girl were assaulted during four separate incidents. Belter's mother Tricia Vacanti, 50, stepfather Gary E. Sullo, 56, and a family friend Jessica M. Long, 42, reportedly gave the girls alcohol and marijuana during these parties and groomed them for the sexual assaults that followed. 

The three adults currently face charges in Lewiston Town Court of child endangerment and unlawfully dealing with a child. As for Belter, he pleaded guilty to felony charges which 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 eight years behind bars. Despite the magnitude of his serious crimes, Judge Murphy didn't think it was appropriate to hand him prison time. He said, "I'm not ashamed to say I actually prayed over what the appropriate sentence would be." He went on to add, “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.” Justifying his ruling, the judge expressed that Belter's probationary status would be "like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years," according to Buffalo News.



 

 

He was given a warning back in 2019 by now-retired Judge Sara Sheldon. He was placed on two years' interim probation and was given a chance to earn youthful offender status limiting his sentence to four years and preventing him from being registered as a sex offender. Sheldon had predicted that Belter would find it extremely hard to comply with the rules and restrictions imposed on him and that is what happened. The Lockport resident did violate the probation by installing software on his personal computer that allowed him to view pornography, which he was not permitted to do, and told his probation officer that he had been viewing porn since he was 7. "He has recently been treated with medication to lessen his libido," wrote Murphy as he denied Belter's youthful offender status. 

The outcome was far from desirable for the victims, one of whom was told by Belter that, "if she stopped resisting, it wouldn't hurt as much." The judge also wrote that the girl "spoke about a plant that she focused on in the Defendant's room that she focused on as he was raping her. 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." But the judge and psychologist Dr. David Heffler felt that Belter "appeared to comprehend how much harm he had done to other people." Before the sentence was announced, Belter said, "Through treatment and reflection, I’ve come to feel deep shame and regret for my actions. None of you deserved to be in this situation." He will return to court in December for a sex offender registration act hearing where it will be decided whether he is a level one, two, or three sex offender.

References:

https://www.kvoa.com/news/new-york-man-gets-no-jail-time-after-pleading-guilty-to-raping-4-teens/article_ca8d5984-489d-11ec-9982-9fdb033d5a44.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/11/17/newyork-christopher-belter-rape-probation/

https://buffalonews.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/man-who-sexually-assaulted-4-teen-girls-in-lewiston-home-gets-probation/article_c247289a-466d-11ec-b23d-43b7373c17e9.html

Representative cover image source: Twitter

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