Back in 2016, a Texas girl visiting a Christian youth camp in southern Oklahoma was violently raped and sodomized by one of the cooks. And yet, as it stands now, this monster will not serve a day in jail. He accepted a plea deal that will allow him to serve probation primarily because–wait for it–he’s legally blind.
The question was obvious–how could such a travesty even happen? Well, the person who is responsible for that travesty has already paid a stiff price. Late Wednesday, the prosecutor who negotiated this ridiculous plea deal was forced to resign.
Benjamin Petty, a volunteer cook at the Falls Creek youth camp outside Davis, could have faced up to life in prison for raping and sodomizing his 13-year-old victim after luring her to his cabin. He faced charges of first-degree rape, rape by instrumentation, and forcible sodomy. But Murray County assistant district attorney David Pyle negotiated a plea deal that called for Petty to plead guilty to all three charges in return for a suspended sentence of 15 years in prison. In return, Petty accepted a sentence of 15 years’ probation, the first two years of which he will have to wear an ankle monitor.
Pyle claimed that he told the attorney for the victim’s family, Bruce Robertson, that Petty was not going to get any jail time worth mentioning because he was legally blind. Pyle also claimed that the victim was skittish about traveling back and forth to Oklahoma for the criminal trial.
But that story came unraveled when Robertson issued a statement claiming that his client had indeed traveled to Oklahoma in April 2017 for the preliminary hearing “and anticipated testifying at trial.” Robertson, who is also representing the family in a civil suit against the victim’s church, Petty’s church, and the Baptist State Convention of Oklahoma, added that the victim’s family “was not provided any other alternative” other than the plea deal.
Later on Wednesday, Pyle’s boss, Craig Ladd, the district attorney for five counties in southern Oklahoma, weighed in with a burning statement of his own. Ladd strongly condemned “the lenient manner” in which Pyle handled the case, and added that it didn’t square with his views on “how rapists, especially those who prey on children, should be dealt with in the criminal justice system.” Ladd met with Pyle later that day, and handed in his resignation shortly afterward.
However, Ladd told CBS News that the resignation was anything but voluntary, saying that the plea deal was why “the assistant district attorney who made the plea deal no longer works at the office.” Ladd claimed that had he known about the deal before it was announced, he would have kiboshed it. Even without Ladd’s own views on how child rape should be prosecuted, Oklahoma law requires sex offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentences before being even considered for parole and doesn’t appear to make any exceptions for blindness.
Several local residents told KXII in Sherman, Texas that they were just as outraged as Ladd. Bobby McKinney of Sulphur, the county seat, said that a lot of people feel “betrayed” by this deal, and didn’t think that anyone was happy with Petty “not serving any time.”
The sentiment on Twitter was similar.
Assistant DA David Pyle’s Resignation shows integrity, but too little too late. #shameful
— Michael Ferguson (@soonerferg) February 1, 2018
Brutally raped a child @ church camp & Assistant DA says THIS? Via @kfor "Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, who negotiated the guilty plea deal, told NewsOK that Petty is “legally blind” which was a major factor in his decision not to insist on prison time"
— Laurie M. (@LaurieMit) January 31, 2018
FANTASTIC job Assistant DA David Pyle!
Real justice served here. I mean this guy who violently raped and sodomized a 13 year old girl will TOTALLY be penalized and learn his lesson from this probation!
I'm sure he'll never do this again after this harsh harsh punishment. https://t.co/Nn3Y4IEUAP
— Gina Fonseca (@GMamma4) January 31, 2018
Ladd claims that there’s nothing he can do to reverse this plea deal, since Petty has already been sentenced and “I cannot legally undo what has been done.” Even if that is true, hopefully Ladd looks into whether Pyle’s handling of this case was on the up and up. From what Robertson is saying, Pyle at the very least lied about the victim’s willingness to travel to Oklahoma for trial. Did he lie about anything else?
At least now this little girl has a measure of justice. The man who prevented her from getting her day of court has paid with his job.
(featured image courtesy Oklahoma Department of Corrections via KFOR-TV)