Can having a lot of money buy you a lesser sentence, even for heinous crimes, such as raping your young daughter?
Details of a shocking probation sentencing from 2008 have come to light after a lawsuit was filed this past week, and have people asking that very question.
In an outrageous story out of Wilmington, Delaware, Robert H. Richards IV, a wealthy heir of the du Pont fortune, was sentenced to probation in June 2008, after admitting in Court that he had sexually abused his daughter.
From USA Today:
A judge who sentenced a wealthy du Pont heir to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter noted in her order that he “will not fare well” in prison and needed treatment instead of time behind bars, court records show.
Richards’ rape case became public this month after attorneys for his ex-wife, Tracy, filed a lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the abuse of his daughter.
The lawsuit filed this week details the 2008 sentencing that was never made public to the media, and claims that Richards “utilized his family’s wealth and position in the community.”
The judge in the case was Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, who has been a judge since 2001.
Richards had initially been indicted on two counts of second-degree rape of a child, but just days before he was scheduled to go to trial, the prosecutor offered him a plea deal. He would plead guilty to one count of fourth-degree rape, which he accepted.
Then at sentencing, the same prosecutor, Renee Hrivnak, recommended probation, instead of jail time. According to USA Today, fourth-degree rape is a Class C violent felony that can bring up to 15 years in prison, though guidelines suggest zero to 2 1/2 years in prison. Had the plea deal not been made and he had been convicted of the second-degree rape, he could have been facing up to 10 years for each count.
Judge Jurden sentenced Richards to Level II probation, which requires monthly visits with a case officer, and ordered him to pay $4,395 to the Delaware Violent Crimes Compensation Board.
According to his arrest warrant, Richards’ daughter had told her grandmother that Richards was sexually abusing her, and that she “didn’t want my daddy touching me anymore.” Richards’ then-wife told police that when she confronted him about it, Richards admitted it but said that it was an accident and that he wouldn’t do it again.
The lawsuit filed last week by Richards’ ex-wife also makes shocking claims that while on probation, Richards admitted that he had also sexually abused his toddler son, during the same time period he had abused his daughter.
The lawsuit says that Richards’ ex-wife had filed a complaint with police in 2010 about Richards abusing his son, but police say they never had any evidence to support those claims.
Now that this sentencing has gone public, it’s getting a lot of attention on the internet, with many people arguing that treatment instead of prison might be a good idea for drug addicts, or non-violent offenders, but certainly not child rapists.
Richards is unemployed and supported by a trust fund. His great-grandfather is du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont.
He is still on probation.
In a news conference held last week, Richards’ ex-wife and her attorneys asked that anyone with knowledge of other possible abuse by Richards to contact authorities, saying that Richards had once been a counselor at a children’s camp.
This is the second case I have read about in the last few months, where “affluenza” seems to be an excuse for lighter sentencing. In February 2014, a judge in Fort Worth, Texas, sentenced a teenager who killed four people in a drunken-driving crash to 10 years probation and a stint in a rehab facility. The judge in that case had apparently believed a defense expert, who claimed that the teen’s wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility, and that he shouldn’t spend any time in prison.
Saying that someone who is wealthy doesn’t know any better due to the privilege in their lives or that they won’t “fare” as well in prison, makes zero sense to me.
What do you guys think?
To read more about this case, click on the links below.