Richard H. Richards IV is, well, a very rich man. He is part of the top 1% of society. He is the heir to the du Pont family fortune, and the great grandson of Irenee du Pont of DuPont Chemical. He lives in a 5,800-square-foot mansion worth $1.8 million. He is also a convicted child rapist, and was given a sentence of probation instead of time in prison.
In 2008, Richards was brought to trial for the sexual assault of his three-year-old daughter. The charge was second-degree child rape, which carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in state prison. He immediately hired some of the top legal firms in the country to come to his aid.
Judge Jan Jurden eventually offered Richards a plea bargain that included no jail or prison sentence, and only required probation. In return, Richards would plead guilty to a charge of fourth-degree rape. This charge carried no mandatory jail or prison sentence. Judge Jurden explained that the light sentence was given to Richards because he “would not fare well in prison.” She then ruled that treatment would be the best course of action for the confessed child rapist. Richards has since admitted to sexually assaulting his son as well, but he was never convicted of that crime. The original sentence became public knowledge after Richards’ ex-wife filed a new public lawsuit.
The new lawsuit from Richards’ ex-wife states that he used his fingers to penetrate his daughter while pleasuring himself. Furthermore, this was not a single incident. The new lawsuit alleges that Richards repeatedly raped both of his children for two years, between 2005 and 2007.
A public defender in Delaware, Brendan O’Neill, commented that it is “extremely rare” for someone to fare well in prison. O’Neill continues, saying, “Prison is to punish, to segregate the offender from society, and the notion that prison serves people well hasn’t proven to be true in most circumstances.” Several other attorneys have gone on the record since then to state that it is highly unusual for a judge to give a child rapist probation instead of a prison sentence. These attorneys, who were polled by The News Journal, also agreed that treatment instead of jail was a deal for drug addicts, not sex offenders.
This sort of leniency from a judge is not without recent precedent. In Alabama, Austin Smith Clem was convicted of raping his 14-year-old neighbor twice, but Judge James Woodroof suspended the 40-year prison sentence that Clem would have served. Clem was then placed into a community corrections program. The state appeals court demanded that Judge Woodroof resentence Clem, but Woodroof refused. Judge Woodroof even reduced Clem’s already lenient sentence after that.
Recently in Montana, Stacey Dean Rambold was convicted of having sex with one of his 14-year-old students. Judge G. Todd Baugh suspended most of the 15-year prison sentence allotted to Rambold, requiring him to serve only 30 days.
There does seem to be a fair bit of precedent in regards to leniency for men who rape teenage women, but it is far more difficult to find these precedents among those who rape children. It is difficult to locate any such precedent involving a child rapist who has been given probation instead of a prison or jail sentence, and especially for a sex offender like Richards who repeatedly raped an infant over the course of a two-year period. This would appear to be a unique situation for the moment, at least until more information surfaces.
By Luke Sargent