Du Pont Family heir (and son of a very powerful retired attorney) Robert H. Richards IV received a slap on the wrist in 2008 after he pleaded guilty to raping his three-year old daughter: Eight years probation. The offense is normally punishable by up to 15 years in prison, but Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden‘s rationale for the extremely lenient sentence was that the 6’4″ 264 lb. millionaire “[would] not fare well” in prison.
Richards’ arrest and subsequent trial was not disclosed by the District Attorney’s office and received no media coverage, locally or nationally. The details of Richards’ case only came to the attention of the public this month after his ex-wife filed a civil suit against him on behalf of their two children. The suit alleges that Richards also molested their son numerous times over the course of two years, beginning when the boy was 19 months-old. Police investigated the allegations in 2010 after Richards said during a polygraph test that he was very concerned something might have happened to his son and that he may have repressed the memory, but wouldn’t do it again. During the course of the 2010 investigation police interviewed the boy – then six – but not Richards. The case was closed citing a lack of evidence.
His trial may have escaped the attention of the public, but Richards is listed in the Delaware Sex Offender registry. The entry states that he was convicted on June 30, 2008 Rape in the Fourth Degree: Sexual Penetration of a victim less than 16 years-old – a Class C felony – and registered with the state on February 13, 2009. Richards is classified by the state of Delaware as being a Tier Two offender: Someone who is considered a “moderate risk” for re-offending. In Delaware, only Tier Two and Tier Three (high-risk) receive a public listing. It is unknown to me at this time why so much time elapsed between his sentencing and registration.
With Richards’ conviction no longer an open secret, national media is wasting no time publicizing the sweetheart deal he received from the state. Judge Jurden will probably be facing some very difficult questions in the coming days. I wouldn’t be surprised if she resigned. Probation for child rape isn’t becoming of the 2011 winner of the Outstanding Service to the Courts and Bar Award, an annual honor presented to a lawyer or judge who “…by exemplary service to the Delaware Courts and the Delaware Bar has substantially assisted the Courts and the Bar and strengthened the public trust and confidence in the State’s court system and the administration of justice.”