After a man was found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl, the presiding judge began to read out his sentence. However, the entire courtroom gasped when the judge explained exactly why he wasn’t going to jail the rapist.
While attending the Falls Creek church camp, which is an incredibly popular youth event in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, a 13-year-old Texas girl befriended the camp cook. The young girl was excited when 36-year-old Benjamin Lawrence Petty invited her to check out the latest tech device he’d recently purchased. What she didn’t know is that this was all part of a sinister plot to get her alone.
For millions of American children, attending church camp in the summer creates fond childhood memories. In some cases, hundreds or even thousands of youths gather to not only bolster their faith but have fun with their peers while doing so. Unfortunately, this situation can also provide predators with the perfect circumstance for their sadistic crimes.
After luring the child into his cabin, Petty then closed the door and attacked his young victim. According to court documents, the camp cook “tied [the victim’s] hands behind her back, pulled down her jeans, pushed her face down on his bed, and violently raped and sodomized her,” Aol.com reports. He then threatened the 13-year-old girl that he would hurt her if she told anyone.
Fortunately, the child exposed Petty’s horrific crime, leading to his arrest and charges of forcible sodomy, first-degree rape, and rape by instrumentation. Fearing a harsh sentence, Petty agree to plead guilty to all three felony charges. However, he soon realized that the judge had no intention of teaching him a lesson.
According to The Oklahoman, District Judge Wallace Coppedge shocked the entire courtroom when he explained that, despite Petty pleading guilty to three felony rape charges, he wouldn’t give him any jail time because he “is legally blind.” Coppedge instead sentenced Petty to 15 years probation, 24 months of wearing an ankle monitor, and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Although the judge and district attorney claim that the family agreed to the deal, the girl’s lawyer revealed that “the family was not provided any other alternative.” In fact, he claims that they were warned to take the deal or else Petty might receive an even more lenient sentence.
Bruce Robertson, an attorney who is helping represent the victim’s interests in a civil case, said the family’s consent to the plea agreement came after “the family was told by the district attorney’s office that the rapist would not serve any meaningful prison time due to his medical conditions.”
Although Petty was already legally blind at the time of his crimes, Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, who was responsible for negotiating the plea deal, admitted that Petty’s medical condition was a major factor in the decision not to jail the child rapist.
“The big thing is Mr. Petty is legally blind and the parents (of the victim) live out of state and this little girl lives out of state and didn’t want to make all the travels back and forth,” Pyle said. “The plea was negotiated with their permission.”
Since news of Petty’s light sentence spread, Pyle was forced to resign from his position as assistant district attorney amid public outrage. Judge Coppedge also became a target of the community’s wrath, leading to an online petition demanding his removal from the bench.
Few defended the judge’s actions, arguing that he was merely doing his job. However, it was soon revealed that, since his first election in 2010, Coppedge has allowed convicted child rapists and pedophiles to avoid jail on at least 7 occasions.
Regardless of the judge’s reasoning for allowing Petty to get off without prison time, it’s clear that his lack of sight didn’t prevent him from raping and child and certainly won’t prevent him from doing it again. As such, his medical condition never should’ve been a factor in the sentencing. Hopefully, Petty is the last rapist that Judge Coppedge allows to escape justice.