A New York man was sentenced to eight years' probation and no jail time after he pleaded guilty to raping four teenage girls during parties at his parents' home when he was a teenager, The Washington Post reported.
Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy III said a prison sentence in the case "would be inappropriate."
The crimes took place between February 2017 and August 2018, when Christopher Belter was 16 or 17, the Post reported. Local officials said three 16-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl were assaulted in four separate incidents, the report added.
Belter pleaded guilty in 2019 to felony charges that included third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse as well as two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse, the Post reported.
In his ruling, the judge said he "agonized" over the sentence and said "I'm not ashamed to say I actually prayed over what the appropriate sentence would be," according to The Buffalo News.
He added that his probationary status would be "like a sword hanging over your head for the next eight years."
The lawyer for one of the victims, Steven Cohen, was visibly enraged by the ruling and said, "Justice was not done here today," The Buffalo News reported.
"For an adult to get away with these crimes is unjust," Cohen added.
"If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family, it is my belief he wouldn’t have received the original plea deal, and he would surely have been sentenced to prison," Cohen said in a statement to The Hill.
"The greater harm however, is that the sentencing in this matter would seem to perpetuate the insane belief that rape is not a serious crime and that its occurrence results in little consequence to the perpetrator. Our society needs to do much better," he added.
"My client, one of four of Belter’s known victims, threw up in the ladies room following the sentencing," Cohen said.