A wealthy heir to the multimillionaire du Pont family who admitted raping his 3-year-old daughter was sentenced to probation by a judge who determined he would "not fare well" in prison and should be given treatment instead.
The decision to spare Robert Richards IV prison time came as a surprise to defense attorneys and prosecutors. Several noted that prison officials can put inmates in protective custody if they are worried about their safety, given that child abusers can be the target of other inmates, The News Journal
of Wilmington, Del., reported.
Richards was sentenced in 2009 by Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, but the case has only recently come to light because of a lawsuit filed by Richards' ex-wife for compensatory and punitive damages related to the crime.
She accuses him of admitting to sexually abusing his infant son between 2005 and 2007, the same period during which he abused his daughter starting when she was 3, according to the News Journal.
Richards is the great-grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont. He is unemployed and supported by a trust fund, owns a $1.8 million mansion in Greenville, Del., and a home in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth Beach, according to USA Today.
Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree rape of a child, a felony that carries a mandatory 10-year prison term for each count. However, days before a scheduled trial, prosecutors offered Richards a plea deal, reducing his charge to a single count of fourth-degree rape, which does not carry a mandatory prison sentence.
He accepted the deal and admitted in court that he abused his older child.
Kendall Marlowe, executive director of National Association for Counsel for Children, criticized the ruling.
"Child protection laws are there to safeguard children, and adults who knowingly harm children should be punished," Marlow told the News Journal. "Our prisons should be more rehabilitative environments, but the prison system's inadequacies are not a justification for letting a child molester off the hook."
Others however, defended the wisdom of the judge's view about why Richards should be spared prison.
"Sure, they have protective custody, but that is solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. We're not a Third World society," defense attorney Joseph Hurley told the News Journal.
"Sex offenders are the lowest of the low in prison," he added. "He's a rich white boy who is a wuss and a child perv. The prison can't protect them, and Jan Jurden knows that reality. She is right on."
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