In the wake of public outrage at the sentencing for Benjamin Petty, the 35 year old Midwest City man convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old Falls Creek camper in June 2016, things are changing at the District Attorney’s office.
Carter County District Attorney Craig Ladd said David Pyle, who negotiated Petty’s concurrent suspended sentences and probation in lieu of prison time, resigned his position.
“Assistant District Attorney Tim Burson will be assigned to cover Murray County beginning Monday,” Ladd said.
Ladd also said he wanted it known that he strongly disagrees with the leniency Petty received in the case.
“The manner in which that case was prosecuted does not reflect my thoughts or position on how rapists, especially those who prey on children, should be dealt with in the criminal justice system. While I disagree with the way it was handled, the defendant has been sentenced and thus, jeopardy has attached. Therefore, I cannot legally undo what has been done.”
Statements, released by David Pyle after the sentence was handed down by District Judge Wallace Coppedge on Jan. 19, said the victim and her family agreed with the plea’s lax conditions due to Mr. Petty’s visual disability and the travel distance from their home to hearings.
Representation for the victim, known only as “Jane Doe” to the public in order to protect her privacy, said this is not the case.
“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,” said a statement sent by attorney Bruce Robertson from Ryan, Whaley, Coldiron, Jantzen, Peters & Webber, a legal group in Oklahoma City who represented the victim in the criminal case.  “In fact, our client traveled to Oklahoma and was present in the courthouse on April 10, 2017, for the preliminary hearing and anticipated testifying at trial. Further, the family consented to the plea agreement based on the representation by Mr. Pyle that Petty would not serve meaningful time in prison due to his medical conditions. The family was not provided any other alternative.”
While the criminal case has ended with three felony convictions for Petty, a civil case for negligence is still pending against the Baptist General Convention and the two churches involved, The Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City and the First Baptist Church of Terrell, Texas. When contacted for comment regarding the sentencing and surrounding controversy, Brian Hobbs, communications director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma said the group has no association with Petty as he was neither an employee nor a volunteer for Falls Creek itself.
“We are continuing to pray for the victim and family, as well as everyone impacted by this,” Hobbs said.
Allegations of negligence in the ongoing civil suit could lead to actual and punitive damage awards to the victim of at least $675,000 according to the documents filed in Oklahoma County District courts last year.