UPDATED: 11:15 a.m. ET, Nov. 24, 2021
Originally published: April, 30, 2019
One of the most glaring examples of racism in this country is the criminal justice system and its resulting outcomes that often vary depending on the defendant(s)’ skin color. Whether intentional or not, the racial disparities are impossible to ignore as Black suspects routinely get disproportionately sentenced to exponentially more prison time for similar, if not the same, crimes committed.
To that point, history shows that white people can many times commit violent crimes with little to no punishment, especially compared to their Black counterparts.
That truth rang resoundingly loudly this month when two white men who were each convicted of rape in separate cases were given lenient sentences that ensured they would not spend a millisecond in a jail cell for their violent crimes that the respective judges readily acknowledged. Both cases reinforce the apparent rule that allows white people to break the law — even rape and kill — with little to no consequences, especially incarceration.
It’s especially offensive when it is a police officer who flagrantly breaks the law.
That was the case with Baltimore County cop Anthony Westerman, who raped a woman and assaulted another in crimes for which he was found guilty and convicted in August. But a judge decided on Monday that Westerman serving a sentence of four years at his home was a more appropriate punishment than prison despite the violent and sexual nature of his crime, 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 Westerman’s 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.
Whites who commit heinous crimes with no consequences are most definitely a consistent theme in America’s legal justice system. See some more of the shocking cases below.
1. Shane M. Piche
The 26-year-old bus driver admitted to raping a 14-year-old student. No jail time, he only had to pay $375 in court fees and a $1,000 special sex offender registration fee.
2. Zoe Reardon
When she was 18, Zoe Reardon killed three people with her car, including a three-month-old baby. In March 2019, Zoe Reardon took a plea deal to avoid any jail time for possibly texting while driving her Jeep in Woodstock, Georgia, before she hit and killed them in 2017. Amazingly, Reardon was only sentenced to 36 months of probation and won’t see the inside of a prison for the deaths she caused. Reardon, a first-time offender, is expected to get her license back after fulfilling the terms of her probation.
3. Michael Rosfeld
On June 19, 2018, just hours after he was sworn in as an officer in Pittsburgh, Rosfeld fatally shot 17-year-old Antwon Rose. During a traffic stop, officers, including Rosfeld, claimed they were investigating a nearby shooting. The driver, Rose and one other person were in the car. The driver was arrested. The other passenger escaped but was arrested on June 26. Rose allegedly ran and was shot in the back three times. As for the nearby shooting to which officers were responding, investigators confirmed Rose was not involved in the incident. Rosfeld was found not guilty on all charges.
4. George ZimmermanSource:Getty
On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot and killed Travon Martin in Sanford, Florida. The killer claimed self-defense and was acquitted of all charges in Florida v. George Zimmerman on July 13, 2013. He has since been in trouble with the law countless times.
5. Ethan CouchSource:Getty
On June 15, 2013, in Burleson, Texas, Ethan Couch killed four people while driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He was indicted on four counts of intoxication manslaughter for recklessly driving under the influence. His attorneys argued that the teen had “affluenza” and needed rehabilitation instead of prison. A judge sentenced him to ten years of probation on Dec. 13. By Dec. 2015, he vanished and when he was found — at a resort in Mexico with his mother — he was finally sent to jail two years, only for violating his probation. He is free to this day.
6. Isaac Turnbaugh
In 2002, Isaac Turnbaugh, of Randolph, Vermont, shot and killed 24-year-old Declan Lyons while working at the American Flatbread Co., a local pizza restaurant. In 2004, he was acquitted. However, shortly after he got away with murder he confessed to police that he was guilty. Nonetheless, authorities did not charge him because of the Fifth Amendment’s “double jeopardy” clause. We have a feeling if Turnbaugh would have been a different complexion, the court system would have found a way.
7. Ronald Ebens and Michael NitzSource:Getty
In 1982, Ronald Ebens (pictured) and Michael Nitz attacked Vincent Chin at a Detroit McDonald’s because they claimed Japanese manufacturers were “stealing their jobs.” Chin, who was Chinese, was beaten to death with a baseball bat. Ebens and Nitz only received three years of probation and a $3,000 fine. In 2012, Ebens finally apologized. Disgusting.
8. Betty Shelby, Terence Crutcher’s Killer
Tulsa police offer Betty Shelby shot and killed unarmed motorist Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16, 2016. Video footage showed Crutcher’s hands up as he turned his back to Shelby while standing near his vehicle on a street where his vehicle had become disabled. She shot him anyway. A jury acquitted Shelby of first-degree manslaughter in 2017 and she did not face any civil rights charges. She eventually began teaching a class on “surviving the aftermath of critical incidents.” Yes, really.
9. Timothy Loehmann, Officer Who Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice
On November 22, 2014, in Cleveland, Timothy Loehmann killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of approaching him at a public park. A Cleveland grand jury declined to even bring charges against Loehmann in December 2015.
10. Darren Wilson, Michael Brown’s KillerSource:Getty
Darren Wilson killed unarmed Michael Brown, 18, on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. The killing contributed to the rise of Black Lives Matter. Brown was shot six times. A St. Louis County grand jury never even indicted Wilson.
11. Daniel Pantaleo, Eric Garner’s Killer
Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner to death on video in broad daylight on July 17, 2014. A jury declined to indict Pantaleo. An NYPD administrative judge ruled following disciplinary trial more than five years later that Pantaleo cannot rejoin the police force, his only punishment for taking the life of an unarmed man who was accused of the nonviolent crime of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. You can’t make any of this up.
12. J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, Emmett Till’s Murderers
On August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, kidnapped and lynched Emmett Till after Carolyn Byrant, who is still alive in Mississippi, accused the child of winking or whistling at her. The men were soon arrested but maintained their innocence. The two were acquitted of murder on September 28, 1955. On January 24, 1956, “Look” magazine published their confessions and they were reportedly paid $4,000. They never spent a day in jail for killing a child.
13. 15,000 White People In Waco, Texas
In 1916, 17-year-old Jesse Washington was convicted of murdering his employer’s wife in Waco, Texas. A trial lasted an hour, he was found guilty and released to the crowd. Listverse.com reports he was “beaten, stripped naked, stabbed, and dragged through town to the courthouse” and “locals cut off Washington’s fingers, toes, and genitals and children pulled teeth from his head.” 15,000 people attended, including the sheriff and mayor. Make America great again…