Christopher Belter, a New York man now 20-years-old, will face no time in jail after pleading guilty to raping four teenage girls between February 2017 and August 2018. His sentence instead includes eight years of probation.
Judge Matthew Murphy III of Niagara County said that a prison sentence “would be inappropriate” in the case. Officials said three 16-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl were assaulted in separate incidents between February 2017 and August 2018.
Christopher Belter, who was 16 or 17 at the time, was identified as the perpetrator. He pleaded guilty in 2019 to felony charges which included third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse in addition to two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse.
The judge said he “agonized” over the severity of the sentence, and he added, “I’m not ashamed to say I actually prayed over what the appropriate sentence would be,” saying Belter’s probationary status would be “like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years.”
He will also have to register as a sex offender as part of his sentence. Belter had previously been placed on two years’ interim probation while he was seeking youthful offender status, but Judge Sara Shelton at the time said it would be difficult for him to follow the restrictions.
Belter admitted that he violated his probation by downloading software on his computer that allowed him to watch pornography, and he added that he had been viewing porn since the age of 7. Belter’s mother, Tricia Vacanti; his stepfather, Garry Sullo; and family friend, Jessica Long, have been accused of supplying teenage girls with marijuana and alcohol while helping groom them for sexual assaults.
Steven Cohen, the lawyer for one of the victims, was angered by the ruling, and he commented, “Justice was not done here today.” He added, “For an adult to get away with these crimes is unjust.” Cohen attributed the ruling to Belter’s race and monetary status: “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.”
Cohen continued, “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.”
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN
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