An online petition is calling for the removal of a District Court judge who last week sentenced a former three-sport athlete at East Longmeadow High School to probation and allowed him to attend college, after the athlete pleaded guilty to indecent assault on two female classmates.
The petition, posted on the Care2 Petitions website, seeks the removal of Palmer District Court Judge Thomas Estes, who sentenced David Becker, 18, to two years of probation and allowed him to serve it in Ohio, where he plans to attend college.
“Judge Estes is essentially letting a known rapist free on a college campus,” wrote Kelsey Bourgeois, the author of the petition. “Besides not serving a single day in jail, David will also not have to register as a sex offender.”
As of Tuesday night, the petition had been signed more than 5,500 times.
Hampden County prosecutors had requested a two-year jail term for Becker when he pleaded guilty Aug. 15 to two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14. He was originally charged with two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault, on his classmates, who were unconscious. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of indecent assault and battery.
A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Trial Court declined to comment on the petition, and a home telephone number for Estes could not be located Tuesday night.
Becker’s lawyer, Thomas Rooke, also could not be reached for comment.
James Leydon, a spokesman for Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said the request for two years jail time was made “after a lengthy and thorough investigation” by prosecutors and local police investigators.
“The recommendation of two years jail time was deemed appropriate and fair based on the facts and circumstances of the case,” Leydon said.
During his probation, Becker must remain drug and alcohol free, stay away from the 18-year-old victims, and submit to an evaluation for sex offender therapy, Leydon said.
If Becker successfully completes his probation without any violations, the charges will be dismissed and he will not have to register as a sex offender, according to authorities.
The outrage over the sentence mirrors the reaction nationally to light sentences given to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner in California and former University of Colorado student Austin Wilkerson in high-profile rape cases.
Turner received a six-month jail term, and Wilkerson was sentenced to probation. Turner and Wilkerson, like Becker, are white. Becker was a three-sport athlete at East Longmeadow High School, Rooke told Masslive.com.
He told the media outlet that allegations that Becker had previously assaulted other girls and that friends sometimes called him “David the Rapist” were untrue.
Bourgeois, the petition author, referenced that nickname in her petition.
“Judge Thomas Estes gave David Becker, or ‘David the Rapist’ . . . just 2 years probation” for the attack, she wrote. “This is yet another instance of a white athlete receiving a slap on the wrist for a violent sexual crime, following on the heels of the Brock Turner case in California.”
Bourgeois said Estes showed “an extreme level of bias in his sentencing and is a part of a horrifying trend in the justice system. Massachusetts must demonstrate that it does not condone this biased sentencing.”