A legally blind Oklahoma man who pleaded guilty to violently raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl at a church camp has been sentenced to 15 years on probation as part of a plea deal.
His eyesight was a factor in the district attorney’s decision not to seek a prison sentence.
According to NewsOK.com, Benjamin Lawrence Petty, 36, of Spencer, Okla., received a suspended sentence on Jan. 19 after entering a negotiated guilty plea to three felony counts: first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation.
He was working as a cook at a Falls Creek church camp in the summer of 2016 when he raped the girl and threatened to physically hurt her if she told anyone. She was reportedly there with a group from Terrell, Texas.
Petty told her he was going to show her how to perform tricks with some kind of device he had when he suddenly pulled her into his cabin, according to court documents reviewed by KFOR in Oklahoma City.
He closed the door to his bedroom, tied the girl’s hands behind her back with rope, and violently raped and sodomized her, court documents say.
Petty, who reportedly had no prior felony convictions, received three 15-year suspended sentences in exchange for his guilty plea, all of which will run concurrently, KFOR reported. He will be required to wear an ankle monitor for 24 months, register as a sex offender and undergo treatment.
“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,” Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, who negotiated the guilty plea, told NewsOK. “The plea was negotiated with their permission.”
Pyle said Petty was legally blind at the time of the rape.
An attorney for the family said they agreed to the plea agreement after the district attorney’s office told them Petty would not serve any meaningful prison time because of his medical condition.
“Based on this representation, the family did not object to the probationary sentence,” Bruce Robertson told NewsOK.com.
“As a result of the plea, Benjamin Petty has been convicted of three felonies resulting from this incident, in which he bound and raped a 13-year-old, and is required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, providing at least some protection for other potential victims.”
The girl’s family filed a civil lawsuit last year against the Texas church that took her to the camp, the church that took Petty to the camp and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
The family accuses the groups of failing to do background checks that might have prevented the rape.
“Although we have no association with Mr. Petty, as he was not an employee or volunteer of Falls Creek, we absolutely abhor his behavior toward the victim in this case,” Brian Hobbs, communications director for the Baptist convention, told KFOR.
“We are continuing to pray for the victim and family, as well as everyone impacted by this.”
Attorneys for one of the churches being sued requested permission to interview the victim about her priory history of voluntary sexual activity, NewsOK reported.
“I don’t think it has any — even a scintilla of any relevance to anything.” Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons said when she rejected the request.
The church’s attorneys have asked Timmons to reconsider because they claim to have talked with other campers about the girl’s “sexual activities” with her boyfriend.
An attorney for the family called the request “victim-blaming.”