A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he "will not fare well" in prison.
In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.
Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.
According to the lawsuit filed by Richards' ex-wife, he admitted to assaulting his infant son in addition to his daughter between 2005 and 2007. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape, felonies that translate to a 10-year mandatory jail sentence per count. He was released on $60,000 bail while awaiting his charges.
Richards hired one of the state's top law firms and was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape charges -- which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. He accepted, and admitted to the assault.
In her sentence, Jurden said he would benefit from participating in a sex offenders rehabilitation program rather than serving prison time.
Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O'Neill told The News Journal that it was "extremely rare" for an individual to fare well in prison. "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," he said, adding that the light sentence for the member of the one percent raised questions about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” (Though perhaps it provides more answers than questions.)
According to the The News Journal, several attorneys claimed treatment over jail time was a deal more typically granted to drug addicts, not sex offenders.
Kendall Marlowe, executive director of the National Association for Counsel for Children, told The News Journal that sex offenders are jailed for the safety of the children they threaten.
"Child protection laws are there to safeguard children, and adults who knowingly harm children should be punished," she said. "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."
News of the lenient sentence for the confessed rapist comes as a new book, Thomas Piketty's Capitalism In The 21st Century, has put new focus on the distorting role of inheritance in the free market economy.