The rapist of 13-year-old at church camp got no prison time. Now, thousands want the judge removed.
By Meagan Flynn, March 5, 2018, Washington Post
Benjamin Lawrence Petty was a cook at the church camp where a 13-year-old girl reported that he tied her up and raped her.
It was June 16, 2016, when Petty approached the girl inside the cabin where he was stationed as a cook at the Falls Creek church camp in southern Oklahoma. He invited her to the back of the cabin, saying that he wanted to show her something — and then he pulled her into his private bedroom, according to a lawsuit filed against Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which runs the camp, and Country Estates Baptist Church, which was in charge of hiring the cabin staff.
Petty then shut the door, tied her hands behind her back and pushed her face down onto the bed. He told her not to tell, or else he would hurt her, the lawsuit claims.
In January, Petty pleaded guilty to the charges — first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation.
But Petty will serve no prison time. A judge approved a plea deal, which called for a sentence of 15 years probation, two years with an ankle monitor and a lifetime on the sex offender registry.
The reason a prosecutor gave for why he did not seek to put Petty behind bars: Petty is legally blind.
That prosecutor, David Pyle, resigned Jan. 31 after public backlash over Petty’s sentence. But the backlash has continued, now targeted at Marshall County District Judge Wallace Coppedge, because he had the discretion to reject the plea deal but instead approved it.
More than 102,000 people have called for his removal from the bench in an online petition. Calls for Coppedge’s removal escalated further after an Oklahoma lawmaker filed a resolution in the House seeking to remove Coppedge, though it has yet to be voted on.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.