A legally blind man who tied up then brutally raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl at Falls Creek church camp in Oklahoma, will serve no time in prison for his crime because a local district attorney didn’t think his time there would be “meaningful.”
The prosecutor ignored the fact that there are many completely blind inmates currently doing time in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, and that there is a unit operating at Joseph Harp Correctional Center designed specifically for incarcerated felons with special medical needs, some of whom currently residing there that are blind.
The camp which is hosted at a conference center owned and operated by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, is considered the world’s largest summer youth camp.
In a plea deal The Oklahoman called “unusual” Tuesday, Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle agreed to sentence 36-year-old Benjamin Lawrence Petty to 15 years on probation after he pleaded guilty to brutally raping and sodomizing the 13-year-old girl at the camp.
Court documents say Petty, who was working as a cook at the camp, tied rope around the girl’s wrists, raped her and then threatened her with physical harm if she told anyone.
Pyle told The Oklahoman that the main factor in recommending no jail time for Petty is that he was “legally blind” at the time of the crime. People who are legally blind, according to WebMD, “can still see — just not that clearly. That means if an object is 200 feet away, you have to stand 20 feet from it in order to see it clearly.” An estimated 1.1 million Americans are legally blind.
District Judge Wallace Coppedge handed down the sentence on Jan. 19 after Petty pleaded guilty to first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation, The Oklahoman said. The parents of the victim also agreed to the sentence.
Bruce Robertson, an attorney representing the victim in a civil case, told the publication that the family agreed to the deal 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.”
“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.
Petty will be required to wear an ankle monitor for 24 months, register as a sex offender and obtain treatment as part of his plea deal.
The civil lawsuit on behalf of the victim names the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City, and First Baptist Church of Terrell as defendants.
The lawsuit argues that “minimal effort” on their part would have revealed that “Petty was a convicted criminal and it was readily apparent that he was involved in a lifestyle contrary and repugnant” to the values they espoused.
The churches and convention were also accused of being negligent for failing to adequately supervise sponsors and camp participants, and failing to train them on how to recognize and avoid predators, according to NewsOK.
Petty reportedly quickly befriended the girl after she arrived at the camp and spent several hours a day alone with her over a period of three-and-a-half days.
He later lured the girl into his cabin and allegedly pulled her into his bedroom, tied her hands behind her back and violently raped her. He then threatened to harm her if she reported what happened. The next day, she reported to an adult sponsor what happened.
Falls Creek, which is located in the scenic Arbuckle Mountains in Davis, Oklahoma, hosts over 6,000 students and sponsors on the campgrounds weekly during the summer. Over a period of eight weeks, the camp says more than 54,000 guests are accommodated, making it the largest summer camp in the world.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
January 31st, 2018