In 2016, Benjamin Lawrence Petty was convicted of brutally raping a 13-year-old girl at an Oklahoma church camp where he worked as a cook.
KFOR reports that according to court documents, 36-year-old Petty, who’s legally blind, lured the girl into his cabin by telling her that he would teach her how to do a trick on his device.
According to the court documents:
Petty closed the door to his bedroom, tied [victim’s] hands behind her back, pulled down her jeans, pushed her face down on his bed, and violently raped and sodomized her.
According to News OK, Petty threatened to physically hurt the girl if she told anyone what happened.
Later, Petty was arrested and charged with forcible sodomy, first-degree rape, and rape by instrumentation; he was looking at a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted of the felonies. Petty had never been convicted of a felony before, according to court documents.
In January, Petty accepted a plea deal and received a sentence of 15 years of probation. In addition, Petty has to wear an ankle monitor for two years and must register as an aggravated sex offender.Screenshot/KFOR
News OK reports that David Pyle, Murray County Assistant District Attorney, who prosecuted the case, said that Petty won the plea deal because he is legally blind and because the parents of the girl didn’t want to travel from out of state to negotiate the sentence.
“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. The plea was negotiated with their permission.”
However, KFOR reports that attorney Bruce Robertson, who represented the victim, now says that the family only agreed to the plea deal because they were never offered an alternative.
In a statement, Robertson wrote:
Contrary to statements made by the Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, our client and her family never expressed reservations about traveling to Oklahoma for the criminal case against Benjamin Petty. In fact, our client traveled to Oklahoma and was present in the courthouse on April 10, 2017 for the preliminary hearing and anticipated testifying at trial. Further, the family consented to the plea agreement based on the representation by Mr. Pyle that Petty would not serve meaningful time in prison due to his medical conditions. The family was not provided any other alternative.
According to KFOR, Pyle said that the plea deal was made in order to protect the victim, so she would “not have to relive the ordeal by testifying in court.” He said that the decision wasn’t reached because of Petty’s blindness, but because the family never objected to it.
“In plea negotiations, there is always give and take on both sides. Many times, plea offers are changed. That’s the negotiation part of it. They had the right to ask and say, ‘No, we don’t like this deal. We want him to go to prison.’ They didn’t do that.”
KFOR reports that Robertson’s statement also said:
ADA Pyle assured us that his office would not agree to a plea deal that did not result in significant incarceration for Benjamin Petty. However, in late 2017, ADA Pyle contacted us and stated that he had reached a tentative deal with Petty that did not involve jail time. ADA Pyle stated that the deal was appropriate because, regardless of the sentence, Petty would not actually serve any meaningful prison time due to his medical conditions.
Robertson added that, according to Pyle, “he did not have to consult with the victim’s civil attorneys on this issue at all” and said that no alternatives would be under consideration.
KFOR reports that the public was outraged by the sentence; more than 46,000 people have signed a petition demanding that District Judge Wallace Coppedge, who made the ruling, be removed.
According to KXII, Pyle resigned from his role as Assistant District Attorney in late January following the controversy over the case. Pyle insisted that— whatever side people are on— at the end of the day, the family agreed to the plea.
KFOR reports that Pyle said, “Is this a bad deal? Yes, it is; however, everyone involved in this case agreed with that recommendation.”