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The Ladder of Law Has No Top And No Bottom

[ 133 ] March 30, 2014 |

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.]


Comments (133)

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  1. Chad says:

    “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.

  2. Another Holocene Human says:

    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.

    • ThrottleJockey says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

          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 says:

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

        • Halloween Jack says:

          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 says:

      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.


  3. wjts says:

    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.

  4. Emily68 says:

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

  5. Shakezula says:

    Yes, prison would totally interfere with his golf game.

    • ema says:

      “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 says:

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

        • Belle Waring says:

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

          • Jeremy says:

            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.

      • Karen says:

        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 says:

          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 says:

            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 says:

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

              • postmodulator says:

                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 says:

                  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 says:

                  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 says:

              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 says:

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

  6. Manju says:

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

    • Shakezula says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

          Holy fucking shit. Goddamn mutherfucking goddamn fucking fuck.

          • Jennifer Steele says:

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

            If so…why?

            • N__B says:

              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?

            • Shakezula says:

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

              • DocAmazing says:

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

              • Ed says:

                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 says:

              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.

        • Stromberg says:

          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?

            • Ken says:

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

              • Manju says:

                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 says:

                  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 says:

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

        • Rhino says:

          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.

  7. DV Lawyer says:

    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.

  8. Dr Ronnie James, DO says:

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

  9. Jacob says:

    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.

  10. somethingblue says:

    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.

  11. Redneck says:

    Florida breaths a sigh of relief…..

  12. fka AWS says:

    I just can’t even.

  13. Karen says:

    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.

  14. Cindy says:

    @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.

  15. Michael C says:

    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….

  16. Nobdy says:

    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.

  17. Hastur says:

    @ 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.

  18. Anderson says:

    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.

  19. etv13 says:

    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.

  20. J R in WV says:

    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.

  21. sjorgl says:

    Laws – like taxes – are for the little people!

  22. Bijan Parsia says:

    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.

  23. The Tragically Flip says:

    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”

  24. […] public defender says that some people are taking the wrong lesson from the DuPont heir who was given no jail time after pleading guilty to raping a child: If there’s one rule that you can live by in criminal […]

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