Rich, admitted child rapist granted probation because he "would not not fare well" in prison [trigger warning]

Robert H. Richards IV, a wealthy heir to the du Pont fortune, has been spared prison after being convicted of raping his three year old daughter. Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden sentenced the admitted serial child-rapist to probation on the ground that he "would not fare well" in prison. The case echoes the affluenza scandal in which a judge spared a rich child a prison sentence after he had killed four people on the grounds that he was so rich that he couldn't distinguish right from wrong.

As the long, excellent article in the News Journal notes, it's nice to hear judges focusing on the rehabilitative dimension of the justice system, but it's enraging and offensive to see that this kind of mercy is disproportionately dispensed to the wealthiest members of society, especially as America sinks further into its decades-old scandal of mass-incarceration, becoming one of history's most prolific imprisoners of poor people and people of color.

The prosecutor bears some responsibility here too, having agreed to a plea bargain for a lesser charge without a mandatory minimum sentence -- the kind of prosecutorial discretion that we'd have loved to have seen in the Aaron Swartz case and many other cases involving people who are not trust-fund multi-millionaires.

Richards is a healthy, imposing man in early middle age. Many others who would "not fare well" in prison, including trans* people and people with disabilities are routinely sentenced to long, brutal incarceration. It would be nice to see the American judicial system extend this mercy to them. In particular Judge Jurden has a reputation as a "tough sentencing judge" (except when confronted with child-rapists from one of America's largest family fortunes).

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.

"It's an extremely rare circumstance that prison serves the inmate well," said Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O'Neill, whose office represents defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. "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."

O'Neill said he and his deputies have often argued that a defendant was too ill or frail for prison, but he has never seen a judge cite it as a "reason not to send someone to jail."

Richards was no frail defendant, court records show, listing him at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and between 250 and 276 pounds. Nor do court records cite any physical illnesses.

Judge said du Pont heir 'will not fare well' in prison [Cris Barrish/News Journal]

Notable Replies

  1. I totally understand that unemployed trust fund parasites would not do well in prison, while the rest of us just need to be beaten into shape. Makes perfect sense.

  2. Looks like another nasty case of affluenza! The rich don't go to jail they just get a slap on the wrist because they are too delicate for prison. This nonsense has to stop.

  3. We write in response to the March 30 article, "Judge said du Pont heir 'will not fare well' in prison." The article was misleading; it misinformed the public about the sentencing process and did a disservice to Judge Jan R. Jurden and the Superior Court. By the way, this sentence did not just become public this month, as the article says. The sentencing in question occurred in a public hearing in 2009 and court records of it have been publicly available ever since.

    Read the rest here.

  4. Plenty of things which could be said.

    Oh no, mentioning a recent case where the genders reversed is off topic!

    Or: Why does Huff continue to avoid using the words molested and raped in articles about male victims? If a man abuses a girl, it's called what it is, but if a woman abuses a boy, it's always called "having sex".

    Or: I'm becoming increasingly convinced that there's a large number of police, prosecutors, and judges who solidly believe they can do anything they want without repercussion, and are becoming increasingly bold with ad hoc rationalizations of unjust actions. How many times have you seen "the trial was punishment enough" as reason behind giving a pretty or rich person a suspended sentence, yet not an iota of effort being made to make the process of a trial less punishing to those who can't afford bail or any lawyer besides the plea deal paperwork pushers most public defenders are nowadays?

  5. Oh, please. What do you think if he had not been rich and white? PROBATION for a child rapist? Fucking hell. No.

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