Prosecutor resigns after lenient sentence for blind rapist

AP News
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Posted: Feb 01, 2018 4:05 PM

SULPHUR, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma prosecutor has resigned after negotiating a plea deal that gave probation to a legally blind man who raped a 13-year-old Texas girl at a church camp.

Murray County District Attorney Craig Ladd said he disliked the way the case was handled. On Wednesday, he announced the resignation of David Pyle, the assistant prosecutor who handled the case.

Pyle said Monday that a major factor in his decision not to insist on prison time was that the defendant was legally blind. Instead, Benjamin Lawrence Petty, 36, was sentenced to 15 years' probation after pleading guilty to first-degree rape and other charges.

"I want it to be known that I strongly disagree with the lenient manner in which the Benjamin Petty case in Murray County was prosecuted in many respects," Ladd said.

Under the terms of his probation, Petty will be required to wear an ankle monitor for 24 months, register as a sex offender and obtain treatment.

"Failure to hold perpetrators accountable regardless of their disabilities sends the wrong message to victims of crime," said Candida Manion, executive director of the nonprofit Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Petty pleaded guilty to attacking the girl in 2016, while she was attending the Falls Creek church camp in southern Oklahoma. Petty, who was a cook at the camp, tied a rope around the girl's wrists, raped her and threatened to hurt her if she told anyone, according to investigators.

"There is a lack of knowledge about sexual assault within the criminal justice system, and what we know about violent offenders is that they will reoffend," Manion said.

Pyle said the girl's family agreed to the plea deal and that they "didn't want to make all the travels back and forth." However, the family's attorney, Bruce A. Robertson, disputed that statement.

"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," Robertson said in a written statement.

Assistant District Attorney Tim Burson will begin to cover Murray County on Monday, according to Ladd.