In the latest evidence that there are “two justice systems” in America based on race, a Maryland police officer became the second white person convicted of rape in as many weeks to enjoy the privilege of not receiving any jail or prison time for their violent felony offenses.
Despite Baltimore County cop Anthony Westerman raping a woman and assaulting another — crimes for which he was found guilty and convicted of in August — a judge decided on Monday that serving a sentence of four years at his home was a more appropriate punishment, according to NBC News. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Keith Truffer ultimately dropped one count of second-degree rape because, he said, there was no “psychological injury” for one of the two women victims.
Westerman’s lenient sentence came days after a judge decided that jail time wasn’t “appropriate” for 20-year-old New Yorker Christopher Belter, who pleaded guilty to and was convicted of felony charges of third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse, as well as two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse. Belter was a teenager when he raped and sexually abused four teenage girls on separate occasions during parties at his parents’ home near Niagara Falls.
On Nov. 16, Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III decided jail time wasn’t “appropriate” for these especially heinous crimes and that eight years probation and a stern warning not to do it again made for a more suitable punishment.
“I’m not ashamed to say that I actually prayed over what is the appropriate sentence in this case because there was great pain,” Murphy said in court. “There was great harm. There were multiple crimes committed in the case. It seems to me that a sentence that involves incarceration or partial incarceration isn’t appropriate, so I am going to sentence you to probation.”
After Belter’s lenient sentence was handed down, a lawyer for one of the women who Belter admitted to raping accurately noted that things would probably be much different if the defendant was Black or brown.
“If Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family, in my experience…he would surely have been sentenced to prison,” Steven M. Cohen said.
The updates from Maryland and New York were reminiscent of too many other instances of white admitted or accused rapists never being truly held accountable.
Shane Piche, who, as a 26-year-old school bus driver in 2019, admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl he allegedly met on his bus. In that instance, Jefferson County Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky sentenced Piche to 10 years’ probation. McClusky said because Piche “had no prior arrests and there was only one victim in this plea,” the probation was “more appropriate.” He is required to pay $375 in court fees and surcharges and a $1,000 special sex offender registration fee. Piche only had to pay $375 in court fees and a $1,000 special sex offender registration fee, but there was no jail time at all.
In contrast, Bill Cosby admitted to drugging and sexually assaulting, prompting a judge to sentence the octogenarian to prison, where the disgraced comedian served more than three years before his sentence was vacated when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled evidence used against him should have been inadmissible.
This is America.