An 18-year-old accused of sexually assaulting two high school classmates is facing two years of probation despite the district attorney’s office’s recommendation of two years in prison.
David Becker, of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, was charged with two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault and battery, according to court documents, after an April 2 incident in which he was accused of digitally penetrating two girls who were sleeping in a bed after a house party. Becker and the alleged victims, who are not being identified, were all seniors.
On Aug. 15, Becker’s case was ordered continued without a finding for two years by Palmer District Court Judge Thomas Estes.
As a part of his probation, Becker must remain drug- and alcohol-free and not contact the victims, the court documents state. He also has to undergo an evaluation for sex offender treatment, according to the Hampden District Attorney’s Office.
The district attorney’s office also said that if Becker does not violate his probation, he will not have to register as a sex offender as the charges will be dismissed at the completion of probation.
In a continuance without a finding, the court agrees to continue a case without a guilty finding for a certain period, as long as the defendant adheres to the terms of his or her probation. If the probation is successfully completed, the case is dismissed. In this case, if Becker completes his probation, he will not have to register as a sex offender, according to the district attorney’s office.
According to police reports, Becker told investigators that when one of the girls “didn’t protest,” he assumed it was “OK.” Becker denied to police having any physical contact with the other alleged victim.
A clerk for Estes’ office told ABC News he could not comment on his decision to continue the case without a finding.
The Hampden District Attorney’s Office recommended two years of prison time for Becker, a recommendation it considered “appropriate and fair, based on the facts and circumstances of the case,” according to a district attorney’s office spokesman.
Scott Berkowitz, the president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, was disappointed by the decision.
“It’s really discouraging when everyone in the process does their job and … then you see a sentence like this,” he told ABC News today.
He said the judge’s decision in this case is probably “discouraging for the victims” and likely “deters other people from reporting their crimes” and “putting themselves through this entire criminal justice process” because they will wonder, “Is it worth it?”
Berkowitz said sexual assault should be taken seriously, even with an 18-year-old.
“I don’t think it would ever occur to a judge or lawyer that after someone [was] convicted of a murder, that they [would] just get probation because they deserve a second chance,” he said. “There would be a universal understanding that there are consequences for committing a crime that bad.”
Becker’s defense attorney, Thomas Rooke, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, but he told The Republican that his client “can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender.”
Becker’s case comes just months following the outrage after former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who was found guilty of the assault of an unconscious woman, was given just six months in jail.
While the Becker and Turner cases are somewhat similar, ABC News’ Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams notes the outcomes of both cases are different: not only did Turner face six months in jail, he also faced the lifetime punishment of being on the sex offender registry.
Another difference is the case against Turner included witnesses who stopped the assault “which made it an easier case to prosecute and potentially convict,” said Abrams.
“One of the things that people need to remember is that part of these cases involves being able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “And there are going to be times that prosecutors are going to take a plea deal … even if they believe in their heart of hearts that something horrible happened.”
He added: “The prosecutors’ decision to enter into a plea deal is most often about their concern either about being able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt or in some of these cases for putting the victims through the trauma of a trial.”