Earlier this year, we reported on a Christian church camp cook who admitted to brutally raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl yet received no jail time because he’s “legally blind.”
Now, people are trying to remove the judge who let it happen.
Benjamin Lawrence Petty was sentenced to 15 years of probation, without any jail time, for tying up and raping the girl at Falls Creek church camp in Oklahoma. Prosecutors reportedly agreed to a sentence that didn’t include any jail time because the defendant was “legally blind,” despite the fact that the disability was irrelevant to the crime and the victim had no say in the deal.
It turns out the prosecutor who negotiated the deal, Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, was forced to resign in the wake of the unjust sentencing. Now, citizens are turning their attention to Marshall County District Judge Wallace Coppedge for approving the deal, according to the Washington Post.
More than 102,000 people have called for his removal from the bench in an online petition. Calls for Coppedge’s removal escalated further after an Oklahoma lawmaker filed a resolution in the House seeking to remove Coppedge, though it has yet to be voted on.
The online petition is directed at the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, which can review allegations and, if warranted, recommend that the state’s Court on the Judiciary remove a judge.
“Even though the plea was negotiated with the victim’s parents’ permission, the terms of the sentence are absolutely ridiculous,” the petition states. “The fact that Petty was legally blind does not bar him from being able to serve prison time for his heinous crimes.”
I couldn’t agree more with this last sentence from the petition. I can’t see how being “legally blind,” a term that generally describes people with 20/200 vision or worse and is often used for those who can still function in society despite having sight issues, has anything to do with this violent sexual assault or justice for the victim.
Petty isn’t some unassuming disabled man who committed a harmless crime out of confusion; he is a predator who lured a child into a cabin, pulled her into his private bedroom, and raped her violently.
Petty then shut the door, tied her hands behind her back and pushed her face down onto the bed. He told her not to tell, or else he would hurt her, the lawsuit claims.
In January, Petty pleaded guilty to the charges — first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation.
We have laws on the books to prevent predators like this from acting out, but if we don’t enforce them because the attacker happens to have an unrelated disability, it creates a dangerous precedent. It’s up to judges and prosecutors to hold criminals accountable for their actions. Both of those people failed this time around.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)