Schenectady County

Man gets 17 years for raping girl

Christopher Petronis faced forward and looked down.

Christopher Petronis faced forward and looked down.

Speaking at the front of the courtroom was a woman, the woman’s daughter by her side. The daughter was 10 years old last year when Petronis raped her.

The girl, who is in counseling, has been tormented, her mother said.

“Words do not express how I really feel. How do you do this and show no remorse at all?” the woman told the court.

“She has gone through so much. She’s in pain every single day,” the woman said, then directing her comments at Petronis, “And you can’t even look at me.

“Are you serious?”

Petronis, 24, pleaded guilty in February to one count of first-degree rape. In exchange for his plea, he received a sentence Friday of 17 years in state prison.

He had faced charges that could have put him in prison for 25 years to life had he been convicted at trial.

In court Friday, prosecutor Jessica Lorusso recounted the girl’s ordeal on the night of Aug. 1, 2009.

She was at a relative’s home and Petronis, a friend of the relative, was there. During the evening, Petronis ended up alone with the girl, watching her favorite show, “Hannah Montana.”

It was then, the girl told police, that Petronis raped her. Then he threatened her. He was an adult and he would be believed, he told her. She wouldn’t, he said.

He told her that even her family wouldn’t believe her, Lorusso told the court. Petronis also used an expletive, which the girl could only recount to investigators by spelling it, Lorusso said.

Because of the threats, Lorusso said, the extent of what happened wasn’t known until days later. She had complained of pain, but her family initially didn’t realize the extent of the injuries.

In his own comments to investigators, and later the Probation Department, Petronis attempted to minimize his conduct, Lorusso said. The girl came on to him, Lorusso recounted of Petronis’ comments.

With the sentence itself set by agreement, the only issue in court Friday was the length of post-release supervision.

Lorusso asked for the most possible.

“The community needs to be completely protected from this individual,” Lorusso said. “He doesn’t really take complete responsibility. He took advantage of a 10-year-old girl.

“He used manipulative techniques to keep her from telling what happened,” Lorusso added. “She was brave. She came forward. She did nothing wrong.”

Petronis’ attorney, Kent Gebert, argued for a shorter term, saying his client would get counseling in prison. He also has accepted responsibility by accepting a lengthy prison term, Gebert said.

Petronis himself declined to give a statement.

Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino noted that Petronis pleaded guilty, sparing the girl from having to testify at trial.

After court, Lorusso noted that the plea stemmed from an indictment, one that required that the girl testify there. Petronis rejected a pre-indictment plea deal for 15 years.

But Giardino gave Petronis the full 20 years of post-release supervision, formerly known as parole.

The damage Petronis did, Giardino told him in court, will be lifelong.

“It will always be there,” Giardino told Petronis. “Twenty years from now, when you’re getting out, it will still be there. So I can’t and I don’t want to lean on the side of a lower parole.”

The mother’s comments came at the start of the proceedings.

She concluded her own comments by saying she couldn’t say any more.

“What I really want to say, I just can’t,” the mother said. “I’m sorry.”

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