Convicted rapist Christopher Belter pleaded guilty to the rape and sexual assault of four teenage girls, but will completely avoid prison time after a judge said that jail time would be “inappropriate.”
Belter faced eight years in prison. Judge Matthew J. Murphy III instead sentenced him to eight years probation and ruled that he must register as a sex offender, an incredible lenient sentencing for the now convicted rapist.
The sexual assault charges come from four different incidents in 2017 and 2018 in Western New York, in a wealthy area of Buffalo. Belter, now 20, was under 18 at the time. Three of the victims were 16-years-old and one was 15.
All of the assaults happened at Belter’s home in a wealthy section of Lewiston, near Niagara Falls. The house was known as a “party house,” but the trial said it should really be known as a house of sexual assault.
Belter’s father, also named Christopher Belter, a wealthy and prominent lawyer, is a senior partner at Goldberg Segalla where partners earn up to $1 million a year. The status of Belter’s family was mentioned often in the trial and in the aftermath of the lenient sentence.
The case reflected that of the Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s trial in 2016, in which a judge gave Turner a mere six month county jail sentence and probation for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The verdict erupted in public outcry, which ultimately led to the judge being recalled.
Belter and Turner are both wealthy, white young men attending elite schools, and legal experts say that their treatment in the judicial system shows a privilege for them over any other defendants, as well as over their victims.
Belter’s judge said “great pain” was caused and therefore a jail sentence would be “inappropriate,” but failed to say what pain was caused or felt by whom. This had led experts to say the judge sympathized with Belter rather than the victims in the harrowing case. The judge offered no explanation for why the sentence did not include prison time besides the use of the word “inappropriate.”
One of the victims detailed how Belter pinned her down and told her to stop being such a baby as he raped her.
Experts say that this case is only the latest in a societal trend of dismissing survivors’ violence in an effort to protect and exonerate abusers, and that Belter’s case will do irrevocable damage.