Amherst man gets 6-7 years for child rape

brown gavel and open book on a wooden table of the law in the courtroom

brown gavel and open book on a wooden table of the law in the courtroom

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 01-25-2024 11:08 AM

NORTHAMPTON — An Amherst man was sentenced Thursday to six to seven years in state prison after pleading guilty in Hampshire Superior Court to rape of a child and five other charges.

Kemal Banatte, 44, will serve five years on probation after he completes the prison sentence under a plea agreement negotiated by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Covington and defense attorney Aliki Recklitis. Banatte, who was set to go to trial next week, also pleaded guilty to indecent assault and battery on a person under 14, three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 and intimidation of a witness.

Judge Edward McDonough accepted the change of plea and imposed the sentence of six to seven years in prison on the child rape charge, three to five years concurrent on three of the indecent assault and battery counts and five years’ probation on the other charges.

Banatte will have to register as a sex offender.

Covington said Banatte’s assaults on the child, who was known to him, began when she was 12. When she was 14 and 15, he had her lie on the couch with him and touched her breast and vagina, he said. In 2019, when she was 15, Banatte penetrated her vagina manually, leading to the statutory rape charge.

Charges of intimidating a witness and larceny came after the girl was granted a restraining order against Banatte in 2022, Covington said. Three days later, Banatte cleaned out the girl’s bank account, over which he had signatory power, transferring $9,000 into another account that he alone controlled.

Covington said it was clear the girl had earned the money and his office had filed a proposed order to have it returned to her, which McDonough endorsed.

Covington told the judge the victim was present in court but had no wish to be heard. He said she was on board with the sentencing recommendation. She was prepared to testify at trial, and had already testified before the grand jury, he said.

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“She showed tremendous courage coming forward,” he said.

McDonough thanked her for attending the hearing.

Later, outside court, Covington said, “The commonwealth believes this disposition brings a measure of justice and closure to the survivor.”

Recklitis told the judge she believed the plea deal was a reasonable disposition. Banatte, who has lived in Amherst for over 20 years and consistently maintained employment, has a limited criminal history but nothing as serious as the current case, she said.

“He’s taking responsibility,” she said. “He intends to get treatment while in prison. He doesn’t want to be in this position in court again.”