Probation for Raping a 3-Year-Old?

ROBERT H. RICHARDSA mind-boggling report in a Delaware newspaper recently revealed that Robert H. Richards IV, heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, pleaded guilty in 2009 to raping his then-3-year-old daughter, but got off without a lick of jail time. Instead, Judge Jan Jurden sentenced him to eight years probation.

Richards’ crime—fourth-degree rape—is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years behind bars; he was initially sentenced to eight years. But on the advice of the state Attorney General’s office, the sentence was suspended and Richards—unemployed and living on a trust fund—walked away with what amounts to a gentle slap on the wrist: A fine of $4,395; sex offender rehabilitation; and a ban on being near any children, including his own.

Judge Jurden’s rationale for the suspended sentence—that Richards’ “treatment need exceeds need for punishment”—can only be described as flimsy. As a report in Delaware’s The News Journal points out, considerations about a convicted felon’s health are most often made in the case of drug addicts, not child rapists.

So how did Richards get off scot-free?

The judge noted in her sentencing order that Richards “will not fare well” in prison. Though this wasn’t the official reason for his light sentence, Richards’ wealth, status and comfortable lifestyle may have played a role in the sentencing process.

Judge Jurden’s decision is part of a disturbing trend: Jared Remy, for example, the son of former Boston Red Sox player Jerry Remy, faced 19 court battles on charges ranging from stalking to assault, mostly against women he was dating. He never once went to prison, often landing suspended sentences, until he was arrested for allegedly murdering his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, last year.

You have to wonder: Given that more than 60 percent of those behind bars are low-income ethnic minorities, what sorts of crimes would wealthy white people have to commit to be sentenced in the same ways?

The 2009 court documents revealing Richards’ sentence resurfaced because his ex-wife filed a lawsuit this month alleging that Richards had also molested the couple’s young son. Let’s hope at least the civil justice system gets it right.

UPDATE: You can sign a petition urging the Superior Court of Delaware to fire Judge Jurden here.

Photo of Robert H. Richards IV via the Delaware Sex Offender Central Registry.

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Stephanie Hallett is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She can be found on Twitter @stephhallett.

Comments

  1. He should be imprisoned for life. That is an unbelievably ridiculous sentence.

  2. As a lawyer I have to say that the Judge generally goes along with the recommendation of the Defense, State, and Probation. It is exceedingly rare that a defendant pleads guilty to a crime and does not get the sentence agreed to.

    The Prosecutor AND Probation both agreed to a suspended sentence. I think the question is not why the Judge did this, but why the State and Probation agreed to the suspended sentence.

    • Good point, Fran. However, the issue is the range of inequities in our legal system toward poor and/or minority defendants. It is unlikely that probation would have been recommended for a poor, unprivileged defendant, much less agreed to by the judge.

    • Money talks louder than justice

  3. Elisha Barudin says:

    Not only should he go to jail – but the judge should be disbarred!! Is there anything we can do?

  4. very sad. People there can start a online petition and put pressure of the court for justice

  5. how are they going to make sure that he is not near any children again? it seems very uncertain and dangerous

  6. That judge was paid off by the du pont heir. No sane judge would let a regular non rich offender get off that easily. This is a horrible miscarriage of justice that should be fixed.

  7. Kevin Kennedy says:

    I wouldn’t cope with 8 years in jail either, if I were convicted of a felony. I don’t think I’d get out of it though.

  8. I think the real question is “what sorts of crimes do wealthy white men have to commit for them to be CHARGED in the same way”?

  9. jamie Bryant says:

    This is disgusting and infuriating. I don’t care AT ALL if this man would not fare well in jail. He raped a three year old child. I am sure she will not fare well for a long time, maybe even as an adult, after what he did to her. He is a piece of human feces. In face, I don’t have words low enough to describe him. He deserves to get the punishment for the crime he committed. I don’t care if he is rich, poor, or what color his skin is. He needs to feel and live the consequences of his actions. Period. The fact that he did not get jail time is not acceptable. There is a problem with the State Attorney’s office for recommending he not do jail time and for the Judge for going along with this. Disgusting.

  10. The legal system failed. Corruption won the day. Sounds like a good ol fashioned lynch mob is what is needed. Storm his house with to etches and pitchforks, an string the pedophile up.

  11. We recently had a case here in Texas where a 16 year old boy from a family of wealth was given Community Service for the death of 4 people in a drunken driving accident. The Judge said the boy suffered from “Affluenzda” meaning he came from a wealthy family that never taught him that there are consequences for your actions. How long before some smart lawyer uses this for the Thugs that don’t have parents that teach them that there are consequences for their actions also. 8 years is not long enough for this animal to have been sentenced for the damage he did to this young child. She may never fully recover physically or psychologically from the rape.

  12. If the court system does not handle cases of violence against women, especially when a father rapes his own helpless daughter, what does that tell the rest of society? That it’s ok? It is the most logical decision to send this rapist to jail, yet the court did not fulfill this blatantly obvious logic. I don’t care who he is or where he’s from, he has proved himself guilty and therefore, he must rue the consequences equal to those of other offenders. Where is our justice system? Because I am not seeing justice here.

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