Man Convicted of Raping 4 Children Spared Jail by Judge: Prison 'Isn’t Appropriate'
Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy gives Christopher Belter a slap on the wrist
A New York judge has allowed a man to walk free from court after being convicted of raping four children, arguing that "incarceration is not appropriate."
20-year-old Christopher Belter, a wealthy elite formerly of Lewiston, New York, will serve no jail time for his sex crimes.
In 2019, Belter pled guilty to raping one young girl and sexually abusing three others during parties at his parents' lavish home just outside Niagara Falls.
Belter was between 16 and 17 years old when he committed the crimes.
His victims were all underage and between 15 and 16 years old.
On Tuesday, Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III told Christopher Belter that prison time would not be "inappropriate" and instead ordered him to register as a sex offender instead.
Belter walked away from court a free man with just a slap on the wrist after receiving just eight years of probation.
Belter had pleaded guilty to felony charges including third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse, and two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse.
But the Niagara County judge decided against a prison sentence.
Judge Murphy told Belter that his eight-year probation would "be like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years."
"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," said Judge Murphy to the shocked courtroom.
"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 did not offer any further explanation for his decision not to impose jail time on Belter.
One of Belter's victims was heard crying out loud as the judge read out his verdict.
Lawyer Steven Cohen, who is representing another of the victims, told the Washington Post that his client threw up after the decision.
The maximum punishment for his actions would have been eight years in a state prison, WKBW-reported.
"Justice was not done here," Cohen declared.
He told The Washington Post on Wednesday that his client, who was joined by some of the other victims in the courtroom, was "deeply disappointed" in the sentencing.
"My client threw up in the ladies' room following the sentencing," Cohen said.
"If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family, in my experience … he would surely have been sentenced to prison."