An Oklahoma man who pleaded guilty to three felony charges relating to the rape of a 13-year-old girl at a Christian summer camp where he worked as a cook received 15 years probation for his crime.
Benjamin Lawrence Petty, 36, brutally raped and sodomized the girl, tying her wrists together with rope and threatening physical harm if she told anyone what happened.
In a civil lawsuit brought against the church by the girl's family, attorneys for the religious institution have requested the opportunity to question the girl on her alleged prior consensual sexual activity, saying it might have contributed to the physical and emotional trauma she claims stems from the rape.
Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, who negotiated the guilty plea, said Petty is "legally blind" and that was a major factor in his decision not to insist on prison time.
Petty was given the suspended sentence by District Judge Wallace Coppedge on Jan. 19 after entering a negotiated guilty plea to first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation. All three are felonies.
Pyle also said the girl's parents live out-of-state and did not wish to make the necessary trips back and forth; however, according to the family's attorney, that was not the entirety of their reasoning for accepting the plea:
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."
The civil lawsuit remains underway, and a request by attorneys for The Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City, which run the summer camp, to question the victim on her "prior history of voluntary sexual activity" is pending before the court.
Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons rejected the initial request, saying, "I don't think it has any — even a scintilla of any relevance to anything."
Attorneys for the church have asked the judge to reconsider her decision, claiming the victim talked with fellow campers about "her sexual activities and history with her then-boyfriend, including her fear that she might be pregnant with her boyfriend's child."
The church's lawyers believe her sexual history might have "contributed to her physical and emotional damages", which the girl's attorney dismissed as an attempt at victim blaming:
"We are saddened to see that the church has stooped to victim-blaming," Robertson said. "While we will not publicly debate the consensual sexual history, if any, of our teenage client, we fail to understand how the church can conceivably argue that any female's consensual relations are relevant to the trauma suffered as the result of a horrific, violent rape. The church has improperly used information in its motion which we believe is in violation of the court's protective order and we will not comment further at this time."