The next time somebody tries to tell you that the American justice system treats people the same way regardless of income, laugh really hard and then refer the poor, stupid soul to the shenanigans of Jan Jurden, a superior court judge in Delaware.
The discovery process in a related civil lawsuit has revealed that Jurden sentenced mega-rich du Pont heir Robert H. Richards IV to mere probation for the crime of raping his own 3-year-old daughter.
In her bizarro court order, the lenient judge insisted that Richards “will not fare well” in prison. Thus, instead of a prison sentence, Richards the affluent rapist is happily getting psychological treatment, reports The News Journal.
The extraordinarily rapist-sympathetic sentence was handed down in 2009. It became widely known only now after attorneys representing Tracy Richards, the child rapist’s ex-wife, filed a lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages related to the abuse her daughter suffered.
The criminal proceedings happened over the preceding two years. In December 2007, the little girl told her grandmother that her father had sexually abused her. Richards had said the encounter was “our little secret.” According to the grandmother, the girl begged that she didn’t want “my daddy touching me anymore.”
When Tracy Richards asked her husband about the child rape, he said it was totally an accident “and he would never do it again.”
In 2008, Richards admitted in court that he had raped his own daughter. He copped a plea to a single count of fourth-degree rape.
Fourth-degree rape is a Class C violent felony in Delaware. The penalty can range from 15 years in prison to no prison time at all. State guidelines say two-and-a-half years.
Luckily for Richards, Judge Jurden gave the fat cat mere probation – technically an 8-year suspended sentence – because, she feared, the rich rapist might face trouble with all the meanies rotting in American prisons.
Beau Biden was Delaware’s attorney general at the time (and he still is). Biden’s chief deputy Ian R. McConnel said he regrets the ultra-light sentence now. He told The News Journal that he wished the judge would have opted for prison time.
As several criminal justice experts told The News Journal, sentences involving treatment are generally reserved for drug addicts, not rapist fathers who rape their own daughters—particularly when protective custody (which amounts to solitary confinement) is an option.
As Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O’Neill noted, Jurden’s anxiety that Richards might not “fare well” in prison is odd because nobody – rich or poor – fares particularly well in prison.
“It’s an extremely rare circumstance that prison serves the inmate well,” O’Neill told the Journal. “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.”
The public defender noted that such a ridiculously lenient sentence might make regular people question whether the American criminal justice system gives everyone a fair shake regardless of their financial situations.
Richards is 6 feet, 4 inches tall. His weight is between 250 and 276 pounds. He appears to be as healthy as a horse.
The du Pont fortune scion has no job. He lives off a trust fund. He does own a 5,800-square-foot mansion purchased for $1.8 million in 2005. He owns a second fancy house, too, according to the Delaware sex offender registry.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Tracy Richards, the little girl’s mom, noted that the girl has suffered quite a bit. The lawsuit also claims that Richards committed additional abuse in 2010 on his son when the boy was just 19 months old.
“They face not only major counseling expenses but like all victims they face a lifetime of problems,” an attorney representing the plaintiffs told NBC Philadelphia.
Jurden has been a judge since 2001. Her boss, Superior Court President James T. Vaughn Jr., pointedly refused to answer questions, according to the Journal.