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The Ladder of Law Has No Top And No Bottom


Of all the crimes for which one expects rich white people to have a de facto exception, you’d like to think this wouldn’t be one of them:

A Superior Court judge who sentenced an heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter wrote in her order that he “will not fare well” in prison and suggested that he needed treatment instead of time behind bars, according to Delaware Online.

Court records show that in Judge Jan Jurden’s sentencing order for Robert H. Richards IV she considered unique circumstances when deciding his punishment for fourth-degree rape. Her observation that prison life would adversely affect Richards confused several criminal justice authorities in Delaware, who said that her view that treatment was a better idea than prison is typically used when sentencing drug addicts, not child rapists.

Well, at least the free pass for raping a child goes to one of the deserving rich:

Richards, who is unemployed and supported by a trust fund, owns a 5,800-square-foot mansion in Greenville , Delaware, and also owns a home in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth Beach.

As an aside, this is an excellent illustration that the appropriate solution to draconian drug sentences isn’t “give judges more discretion” but “don’t allow judges to give harsh drug sentences to anybody.”

[Via Henley.]

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  • Chad

    “Richards, who is unemployed and supported by a trust fund …”

    Are there still those among us laboring under the delusion that people in the position of (e.g.) a DuPont heir might have some sort of gainful employment (beyond, of course, managing their own wealth and potentially the wealth of their illustrious copains?) Tsk tsk. How embarrassingly bourgeois a misconception.

    • Another Holocene Human

      Alaska Trusts. How to avoid the estate tax permanently. Robber baron heirs only need apply.

    • JoyfulA

      His probation should require him to acquire a job and work 40 hours a week.

      • Karen

        In a liquor store in a Dover slum.

    • waspuppet

      But think of all the jobs he creates!

    • bvocal

      ah, er, uhm, he isn’t even managing his own money. See- ‘Trust Fund’

  • Another Holocene Human

    The judge is insane. If prison treatment is an issue then send him to the low security country club prison with the embezzlers and politicians’ friends.

    With these kinds of compulsive sex crimes the lack of punishment signals permission and clears the deck for this creep to offend again. Maybe he’s a little spooked; maybe he waits. But it’ll happen again.

    The biggest risk factor for recidivism is not getting caught. I’ve seen the claim that sex offenders don’t have higher recidivism rates post-prison than other types of offenders.

    • Fred

      “Judge Jurden’s present term ends May 29, 2013.”


    • ThrottleJockey

      I don’t understand why they gave him such a light fucking plea! That makes no fucking sense. Was he paying off the judge and the prosecutors? Why let him plead to such a bullshit charge??? I understand that the lack of corroboration may have been an issue, but still. Motherfucker.

      • fidelio

        It is not for nothing that Delaware is called The Dupont State.

        I would say “See also Dupont, John” but that was in Pennsylvania and involved a jury trial.

        • Halloween Jack

          And that ended up with John DuPont being convicted, sentenced to prison (minimum-security), and dying there after over a decade behind bars and having his parole denied.

      • davedave

        “Was he paying off the judge and the prosecutors?”
        Simple answers to simple questions.

        • Halloween Jack

          And you have proof of this? I think that you’re rather missing the point, that there doesn’t have to have to be an actual exchange of money in this specific case because the concept of one system of justice for the rich and one for the poor is baked into the overall system.

    • JGabriel

      Another Holocene Human: The judge is insane.

      Or was paid off. Possibly both.

      Jurden is apparently known as a tough sentencer: The fact that Jurden expressed concern that prison wasn’t right for Richards came as a surprise to defense lawyers and prosecutors who consider her a tough sentencing judge. Several noted that prison officials can put inmates in protective custody if they are worried about their safety, noting that child abusers are sometimes targeted by other inmates.

      I can’t see how a so-called “tough sentencing judge” lets a child rapist off with therapy instead of jail, unless there’s a bribe, payofff, or other form of quid pro quo. The Feds should investigate.


      • Nathanael

        Either she’s been bribed or she’s been raping babies. (Baby-rapists tend to let other baby-rapists off light.)

        • Nathanael

          Or she might have been blackmailed. Forgot that possibility.

  • wjts

    Most people don’t fare particularly well in prison – our prison system is all kinds of messed up. One of the reasons it’s so messed up, of course, is that such large swaths of the judicial system seem to think that only the lower classes deserve to endure it.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Right — it’s not that the argument is wrong so much that it proves too much.

      • UserGoogol

        Well, we aren’t going to implement prison abolitionism overnight so you’ve gotta start somewhere.

        Still, this isn’t exactly an ideal place to start.

        • Scotius

          Maybe if we started throwing wealthy connected people into prison there might be a greater impetus for reform.

          • Snarki, child of Loki

            Affluenza strikes again!

            It’s a veritable epidemic. Perhaps we should eliminate either the cause or the hosts. Their choice.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Exactly. If you want prison reform give the well-connected harsher sentences than the norm, not lesser ones.

    • Toberdog

      Totally agree.

    • dp

      Not faring well in prison — unless I’m missing something — is kind of the whole point of prison.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        well, there was for a brief while a concept called ‘rehabilitation’ but that was given up on- oh, somewhere in the early 1980s

      • ajay

        Not faring well in prison — unless I’m missing something — is kind of the whole point of prison.

        Only if you’re living in the middle ages. The point of prison is to protect society from offenders – if you steal a car, then we put a high wall between you and all the cars – and to rehabilitate offenders. It’s also supposed to act as a deterrent. But making prison deliberately unpleasant by way of punishment or retribution is a barbaric act, and it’s understandable, therefore, that “prison should be hard” is an opinion held mainly by the devoutly religious.

        • Peter Moskos’ In Defense of Flogging reminds us that prison was a do-gooder innovation intended to treat and rehabilitate. Deterrence was not the idea.

          • Hector_St_Clare

            We should really bring back flogging. Bolivia has done so in the last decade or so.

            • Lee Rudolph

              Ah, the smell of subtext in the morning!

              • Anonymous

                or Domtext in this case

                • Origami Isopod

                  Don’t be so sure.

  • Emily68

    What’s with these du Ponts? This one didn’t do so well, either.

    • Emily68
      • JoyfulA

        Villanova didn’t and doesn’t offer a doctorate in that area. It must be an honorary doctorate for all his monetary contributions.

      • Keaaukane

        Society prepares the crime. The DuPonts commit it.

  • Yes, prison would totally interfere with his golf game.

    • ema

      “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.”

      Won’t someone think of the children child rapists!

      I’m curious, is there such a thing as a professional obligation among lawyers to act when they observe malpractice?

      • Keaaukane

        The defense attorney probably walked out of the court room thinking “I can’t believe he bought that”. Also counting a lot of money.

        • The judge probably walked out of there thinking, “I can’t believe society at large bought that.” Also counting a lot of money.

          • Beverly Mann’s post on “judicial affluenza” from a couple months ago seems quite appropriate here.

            Presumably, psychologist Miller also could explain the judge’s behavior as consequence of an affliction known as “affluenza,” suffered by people placed in positions of government power by very wealthy individuals who think that very wealthy individuals should not take responsibility for their own actions. And who themselves believe that very wealthy individuals should not take responsibility for their own actions. Powerful people, especially judges, who believe that non-wealthy individuals should take responsibility for their own actions. Or should be forced by judges to do so. And who believe that the cure for a disease characterized by the sufferer’s wealth and his failure to understand that sometimes you don’t get your way, and by a refusal to take responsibility for his or her own actions, is to prove him right.

            • Sargasso Sink

              Wow, that [Mann] is terrible writing. I tried to read the whole thing to see what the point was. Completely impenetrable. And not because it uses lots of big words and high-falutin’ concepts beyond my ken. Mann just lacks the basic ability to concisely convey a thought.

              • Anonymous


      • Karen

        When I first started my current job, I had to do criminal background checks, and prosecute guys who had certain kinds of felonies on their records. Sex crimes with children were always grounds for opposing granting a license. I had one guy who had been released a few weeks before his hearing from his 30 year sentence for molesting two boys. (He did about 18 of the 30 years.) At the hearing he was still wearing his ankle bracelet monitor and we had to schedule things so that he was back home by 5:30 p.m. He presented the absolute worst argument I have heard in 26 years of legal practice: he complained that “child molesters are like Jews in Nazi Germany; it’s okay to do anything to them.” I am so very proud of myself for not jumping up and shaking his hand in thanks for making my case for me. Then again, that would have required me to shake his hand, which was NEVER going to happen.

        • Nobdy

          While obviously kiddie abusers are guilty and Jews were not, and the Jews suffered far worse than Kiddie abusers do, it’s definitely true that society is harsh to kid abusers to the point where they are often left with very few choices and options even after prison. They often can’t find housing, employment, don’t qualify for benefits, it’s hard to figure out how they’re supposed to live post release.

          • Warren Terra

            It should be pointed out that these consequences befall not only depraved and incomprehensible abusers of small children, but also some more sympathetic people who wind up on the Sex Offenders Registry, most obviously some dumb kids who are convicted of Statutory Rape because of plausibly consensual activities with a partner of very similar age to themselves, or even convicted because someone sent them a dirty image of an underage person.

            • The Tragically Flip

              Even just peeing in public can land you on the sex offender registry.

              • postmodulator

                This comes up every so often, but the last time I saw it, a commenter asked if there was a case on record. (This wasn’t here. Might have been when I used to occasionally look at Reddit.) At that time no one could find one and I think it might actually be an urban legend.

                With that said it doesn’t seem impossible.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  This case seems to be an example, if somewhat weak. In it, the court summarizes the petitioner’s situation (“section 647, subdivision (a)” covers public urination)

                  Petitioner served the five days in jail and, as a result of the conviction, he must comply with Penal Code section 290 which compels all those who have been convicted of sex offenses, including violation of section 647, subdivision (a), to register as sex offenders.

                  They throw out his original, ill-informed guilty plea, and he ends up not registered. But it’s a close thing, seems to me.

                • postmodulator

                  I almost don’t want to debunk it. The sex offender registry is draconian and often abused in other cases; I’d hate to remove another of its negatives in the public’s mind.

            • Halloween Jack

              This. And also that these kids, as well as some developmentally-disabled adults, get pressured into taking a plea because of the threat of jail, without realizing that they’ll be screwed for life.

    • DrDick

      The fact that both he and the judge were not immediately struck by lightening is proof that there is no god.

      • Rhino

        Plus, their hair is still drab and monotone.

      • NonyNony

        Have you seen some of the stuff that happens to kids in the Bible? I’m fairly certain that God doesn’t like kids.

        • DrDick

          Based on the Bible, God hates everybody.

        • Elisha

          Punks had it coming.

          • Origami Isopod


        • Halloween Jack

          “Hey Abraham! Are you my best bud? Prove it! lol j/k”

  • Manju

    Does Double Jeopardy apply to sentencing? Can the State appeal?

    • The state offered him a deal that did not include mandatory prison time. So, no. I’ll be surprised if Delaware offers this deal to anyone in the future.

      • Manju

        Yeah…apparantly the case is old and only came to light because well…he’s now accused of raping his other child:


        So, he may still get what is due.

        • rm

          Holy fucking shit. Goddamn mutherfucking goddamn fucking fuck.

          • Jennifer Steele

            One question that no one is asking is…was the sentence within the allowable range?

            If so…why?

            • The concept that a child rapist will not do time has me boggled. What crime is lower? More deserving of punishment, for those who think prison is about punishment? More in need of isolating the criminal for a time, for those who think prison is about protecting the public?

            • Yes, for the deal they struck there was NO mandatory jail time. The prosecuting attorney is quoted as regretting that deal.

              • DocAmazing

                I want to hear that “the prosecuting attorney is quoted as saying ‘will work for food'”.

              • Ed

                It’s Beau Biden’s deputy who’s expressed regret. Apparently the prosecutor, a Renee Hrivnak, struck the deal and also recommended probation. Strangely, she was unavailable for comment.

                But in June 2008, just days before a scheduled trial, prosecutor Renee Hrivnak offered Richards a plea to a single count of fourth-degree rape, which carries no mandatory time, and he accepted, admitting in court that he abused his child.

                “It was more than reasonable, an enlightened plea offer,” Richards attorney Eugene J. Maurer Jr.

                I’ll say.

            • Katya

              The only explanation I can imagine is that because the crime was old, the prosecutor was concerned about proving the case at trial. So, better a plea that allows for no jail time than no conviction at all. But really, that’s the best I can do, and it still doesn’t explain why the judge didn’t impose a term of imprisonment. No excuse at all there.

          • allium

            Knuth’s arrow notation may come in handy.

        • Stromberg

          Yeah…apparantly the case is old and only came to light because well…he’s now accused of raping his other child:

          So, do you think death is an appropriate penalty if also found guilty on this second charge?

          • Manju


            • Ken

              Holding out for flaying followed by burial alive in a salt pit?

              • Manju

                Well i not opposed to the death penalty b/c i think killing a rapist is immoral. I couldn’t care less about their lives.

                I’m opposed on epistemological grounds. We don’t have perfect knowledge, he could be innocent, and we have a decent alternatives.

                • The Tragically Flip

                  It also imposes a whole bunch of negative externalities on the judicial system that are unrelated to the specific egregious cases that some use to justify it.

                  Sure you can flay your kiddie diddler, but you’ll also ensure a bunch of innocent people get terrified into confessing to murders to avoid the death penalty if they fight the charge and lose.

                • postmodulator

                  Oh, God, I agree with Manju on an ethical point.

        • Rhino

          Yeah…apparantly the case is old and only came to light because well…he’s now accused of raping his other child:

          You know, right up until this point I was thinking, how could this horrifying story get any worse. And now I know.

          And I really feel the need to shower. Which is odd since I showered 20 minutes ago.

  • DV Lawyer

    I hate to generalize, but I will anyway.

    In my years of doing DV and child-sexual-assault cases the worst judges have tended to be women judges. I have seen them let men off time and again and fail to protect children. The fact that this judge is a woman came as no surprise.

    Ok, flame away on me.

    • Manju

      If you could back that up with stats it would be a question worth pondering. But all you have is personal observation so, not worth it.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      do you have a theory on why that is?

    • efgoldman

      :::primes flamethrower:::

    • rea

      My experiences are quite the opposite.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        that male judges cut defendants more slack? that’s kind of what I would expect… will be interesting to see how DV expands on his/her statement

      • Rhino

        Are there any actual studies on the subject? I mean it wouldn’t shock me if there WAS a disparity, although I would sort of expect it to be the opposite.

    • Anonymous

      In my years of doing DV and child-sexual-assault cases the worst judges have tended to be women judges. I have seen them let men off time and again and fail to protect children. The fact that this judge is a woman came as no surprise.

      This impression probably stems from the same that causes men, confronted with a slightly higher percentage of women in a particular profession (say, up from 15 percent to 30) to conclude that women outweigh men and that something must be done. It’s not intentional, but it happens time and time again.

      What’s the breakdown of male and female judges amongst such cases? How much do men outweigh women? Perhaps you’re (unfairly, but understandably) more outraged when women act sexist than men. That’s a form of benign sexism, of course. That women are saints, and are immune from misogyny. Not true.

      Something to ponder.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Is there a fancy internet law for the fact that if someone invites you to “flame away” the chances that they’ve said something indefensible approach 100%?

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        DV Lawyer made some reasonable and relevant comments on the Jared Remy post (was that yours? I forget) last week

        that said, he/she really ought not to one-off something like the above

      • I hereby dub this “Lemieux’s law”.

        Flame away!

  • Dr Ronnie James, DO

    You know who else “would not fare well” in prison?

    • GiT

      You don’t understand. The sub-species of the New England Dupont line has been bread over generations to feel comfortable only within the confines of an expansive estate. Any tolerance for small quarters has been selected away from. He is genetically unfit for a prison environment. Your common criminal, having lived for centuries in small hovels or apartments, has all sorts of natural resiliencies which delicate members of the Dupont genus simply cannot tolerate.

      • Karen


        And likely to be used by some asshole HBD type in a completely serious paper any day now.

      • Anonymous

        Gitmo is big and airy. Nice weather this time of year too.

      • a conspiracy theorist

        The DuPonts have nothing to do with New England, thankyouverymuch.

    • Witt


    • UserGoogol

      Yes. But that’s not an argument for sending more people to jail.

  • Jacob

    I assume it’s reasonable to state that there’s no possible justifiable rape of any woman, much less your 3 year-old daughter. Yet the sentence is 8 years while the sentence for murder is life imprisonment or death. Of your daughter-raping husband.

    • Anonymous

      You would assume correctly.

      It’s the mother’s fault for not murdering her husband? Got it.

  • somethingblue

    Court records show that in Judge Jan Jurden’s sentencing order for Robert H. Richards IV she considered unique circumstances when deciding his punishment for fourth-degree rape.

    Let me guess:

    His great-grandfather is du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, and his father is Robert H. Richards III, a retired partner in the Richards Layton & Finger law firm.

    • GiT

      I don’t know what it is, exactly, but “Richard, Layton, and Finger” must be something downright obscene.

      • EthanS

        Dick, Lay’d, & Finger?

  • Redneck

    Florida breaths a sigh of relief…..

  • fka AWS

    I just can’t even.

    • Barry Freed

      Yeah, my sentiments pretty much.

  • Karen

    I have a terrible problem with seriously trivial pedantry, but back in the day trust fund old money babies knew that only titled nobility got to use Roman numerals after their names, and that “Sr, Jr. 3rd,” were only used when all the holders were alive, as in, Mr. IV here would only be the fourth if his great-grandfather is still alive. If not, he’s the 3rd, or Jr. if his grandfather died. He gets to be Sr. when Dad goes on to his reward provided he has a son or grandson with the same name. Jeez, rich people have no class anymore.

    • People don’t even say “whoops” when passing their gas. Whatever happened to class?

    • Anonymous

      I think you can seriously argue that the Dupont are part of America’s titled nobility (based primarily on their actions)

  • Cindy

    @Karen…my husband is III and our son is IV. Sr. has passed and jr. is still alive. We are aware of the tradition of moving up as generations die, but it’s a pain in the ass changing bank accounts, credit cards etc. So they remain III and IV.

    • Martin Luther King, Jr.

      Makes sense to me.

      • Hank Williams III

        I agree with Martin.

        • George W. Bush

          D’oh! Just change the middle name(s)! Even I knew that!

          • ‘Enery the VIII

            I got married to the widow next door. She’s been married seven times before, and everyone was an ‘Enery–there never was a Willie nor a Sam.

            • Linnaeus

              No Sam!

    • An early girlfriend had a son whose first name was Charles and was the 4th to carry the name. I sometimes called him Chuck Four.

      • Halloween Jack

        Some time ago, I sketched out an outline for a comic series titled Chuck Three, in which the Prince of Wales becomes an action hero after the UK (and the rest of the world) gets hit with EMP during a low-grade nuclear war and it’s cut off from both the world and from any technology involving electricity. Diana (still alive and not divorced at the time) gets a crossbow, Charles gets a sword. They go to war with the Scots. Now I’m kind of regretting that I didn’t put more work into it.

        • Anonymous

          promising sitcom there too :)

        • JamesP

          Check out Marcus Rowlands’ DIANA, WARRIOR PRINCESS

          • Halloween Jack

            Players can take the role of Diana herself and her loyal sidekick Fergie or play recurring guest stars such as Bonnie Prince Charlie or Wild Bill Gates, while fighting to thwart the evil schemes of the nefarious Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher the undead sorceress, and the War-God Landmines.

            Sorely tempted.

    • john not mccain

      Jr. is on my birth certificate. NY won’t me stop using it without a court order even though my dad died 30 years ago. The rules that worked before ID became important don’t work anymore.

      • john not mccain

        let me stop, that is.

  • Michael C

    I’d like to know what 4th degree rape is. In several states it is classed as a misdemeanor, so it must not be forcible…and something….

    • ThrottleJockey

      Wondering the same thing…no idea…maybe its what they charge when they little/no evidence but obviously can’t let a rapist walk the streets…

    • Rosmar

      Statutory rape.

  • Nobdy

    The true injustice is here is not necessarily this one rich white guy who didn’t get the punishment he deserved, it’s the millions of poor minorities who got way more than they deserved and who did not “fare well in prison.” It’s as if they are somehow less human than him in the eyes of the law.

    But yes, sicko kiddie abusers should be pretty high up on the punishment scale.

  • Hastur

    @ Michael C.: the original charges were two counts of Second-degree rape. The plea deal included reducing those to Fourth-degree rape and no jury trial in exchange for accepting a guilty verdict. The Delaware Online article went into some detail about it.

  • I really hope the judge was paid off.

    Because imposing such a ludicrous sentence is just about as alien to me as raping a 3-year-old in the first place. It screams WRONG so loudly, I hesitate to assume I’m of the same species as someone who could do either of those things.

    Paid off, at least, I can understand.

  • etv13

    It’s often seemed to me that one of the worst, most dangerous places to be is in proximity to power while lacking power of your own.

  • J R in WV

    When I was on a county Grand Jury the one time, in a very rural county, there were a lot of child sexual abuse charges to hear. Pretty much the only severe crimes, with a bunch of typical small time drug cases.

    And in a Grand Jury situation, you can abstain, and the case still move forward to trial if there are sufficient jurors voting to hand up an indictment out of the 17 member panel. I did abstain on most of the minor drug charges, which had no effect on anyone.

    No one abstained on the child sexual abuse cases. One guy had pics of his very young daughter, among many other pictures. The stack offered in evidence was over an inch thick, no one could get all the way through the stack. It was horrific.

    One guy would just walk up to young mentally challenged girls, take their hand, walk them into nearby woods, and have sex with them, just get up and walk off when he was done. These girls weren’t way young, but were pretty incapable of resisting OR consenting. He was already in jail on earlier charges, looked like enough new charges with different girls to keep him put away for a very long time.

    I can’t understand how any actual “system” could allow for this plea to be offered by a DA (PA whatever they are in DE) and then to be accepted by any judge.

    Sitting on petit juries for capital cases was nothing like as stressful as that one long day of Grand Jury work. We did one after another, I think all the cases were recommended for trial, at least a couple of dozen defendants.

  • sjorgl

    Laws – like taxes – are for the little people!

  • It’s not clear to me what’s being done to protect his (and other) children from him.

    Sans jail time those protections better be very very robust.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      like, say, those really really long wraparound-sleeved shirts and a ball and chain?

  • The Tragically Flip

    The descent into an overtly aristocratic two-tier legal system continues, topping even this whopper from a couple years ago.

    Mark Hulbert, the district attorney who made the plea bargain, justified it at the time on the grounds that “felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession”

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