Thousands are now calling for the removal of Oklahoma District Judge Wallace Coppedge after he handed down a sentence of probation instead of prison to a 36-year-old man who brutally raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl at Falls Creek church camp in Oklahoma.
David Pyle, a local district attorney who recommended that 36-year-old Benjamin Lawrence Petty be sentenced to 15 years' probation after he pleaded guilty to brutally raping and sodomizing the 13-year-old girl at the camp, resigned Jan. 31 as a result of public backlash over the sentence.
Support for a Care 2 petition to remove Coppedge intensified on Sunday after The Oklahoman reported that the judge allowed sex offenders to walk free on plea agreements in seven other cases, most of which involved child rapes.
In one of those cases, Steven Wayne Anglin, 64, a father charged in 2014 with raping four girls he had fostered then adopted, gave up his parental rights and was sentenced to 20 years' probation on two counts of rape by instrumentation under a 2016 plea deal.
More than 100,000 people have since signed the Care 2 petition expressing their disgust.
"Even though the plea was negotiated with the victim's parents' permission, the terms of the sentence are absolutely ridiculous. The fact that Petty was legally blind does not bar him from being able to serve prison time for his heinous crimes," the petition says, encouraging members of the public to support the campaign," the petition states.
Court documents say Petty, who was working as a cook at Falls Creek church camp in 2016, tied rope around the girl's wrists, raped her and then threatened her with physical harm if she told anyone.
Pyle told The Oklahoman that the main factor in recommending no jail time for Petty is that he was "legally blind" at the time of the crime. People who are legally blind, according to WebMD, "can still see — just not that clearly. That means if an object is 200 feet away, you have to stand 20 feet from it in order to see it clearly." An estimated 1.1 million Americans are legally blind.
Coppedge handed down the sentence on Jan. 19 after Petty pleaded guilty to first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation, The Oklahoman said.
Bruce Robertson, an attorney representing the victim in a civil case, told the publication that the family agreed to the deal after "the family was told by the district attorney's office that the rapist would not serve any meaningful prison time due to his medical conditions."
"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," Pyle said.
Petty will be required to wear an ankle monitor for 24 months, register as a sex offender and obtain treatment as part of his plea deal.
The lawsuit on behalf of the victim names the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City, and First Baptist Church of Terrell as defendants.
Coppedge, who is the presiding district judge for Oklahoma's 20th District Court, was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, according to The Washington Post. His term expires in 2019. Under Oklahoma law, judges are automatically re-elected if unopposed.