Christopher Belter pleaded guilty to rape and sex abuse in 2019, yet the 20-year-old man walked free. What happened?
Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy claims he "agonized" over his decision. Belter was expected to receive eight years of jail. Instead, he received eight years probation.
According to sources, some of the victims were at the sentencing.
The Judge Explains His Decision
WKBW reported that the judge thought jail time would not be appropriate. Murphy stated:
"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."
"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 warned Belter that he would be under random drug tests, polygraphs, and constant observation, saying:
"It's going to be like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years."
In 2018, when he was just 17, Belter 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.
Belter is a student at Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York.
One victim, present in the courtroom, was visibly upset. A lawyer for a survivor known only as M.M., Steven M. Cohen, said that his client feels "deeply disappointed," telling The New York Times that she "threw up in the ladies' room following the sentencing."
Cohen continued by saying that if "Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family,' he 'would surely have been sentenced to prison."
"The truth of what went on and what he did to his victims is far more egregious than the charges he pleaded to."
Belter Goes Back To Court
Belter will reportedly return to court on December 2 for a Sex Offender Registration Act hearing. It will be determined whether he will be classified as a level one, two, or three sex offender.
It is hard to grasp that in 2021, a confessed rapist walks away free.
This is why victims stay silent, and until the justice system brings actual justice, sex crimes will continue to rise.
As a privileged and wealthy man, Belter, like many others, doesn't have to change his behavior. Because jail is, clearly, not in the cards for him.