Affluenza Amok: Millionaire Child Rapist Gets Probation

Despite officials managing to keep the story under wraps for several years, it recently came to light that a millionaire convicted of raping his own 3-year-old daughter received no jail or prison time for the offense, but rather probation only. The astonishing sentence came to light when the ex-wife of DuPont heir Robert Richards IV filed a civil lawsuit against him seeking compensatory and punitive damages for sexually abusing his two children. When Richards's daughter was 5 years old, she told her grandmother that she didn't want her father touching her anymore. When the grandmother told the child's mother, she notified police. The DuPont heir was initially charged with two counts of second degree rape of a child for digitally penetrating his daughter while he masturbated, beginning when the girl was only 3. In Delaware, these charges carried a potential sentence of 10 years each. In Oklahoma, the same offense would be considered first degree rape by instrumentation, punishable by life in prison. However, Richards accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to fourth degree rape, an offense which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison but a recommended term of zero to 2-1/2 years . Despite Richards admitting in court that he raped a toddler, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison, with the judge promptly suspending the entire sentence, requiring him to serve probation instead. The judge's rationale was that Richards--who is unemployed, supported by a trust fund, and lives in a $1.8 million home--would not "fare well" in prison, and that he would be better served by treatment. Critics of the judge's leniency ask, "So what?" After all, who does "fare well" in prison? The low-level drug offenders who get lengthy terms for minor drug crimes? The single mothers who leave their children in DHS custody while serving a sentence for petty theft? The fathers serving jail time for assault, leaving their families without income? No. Certainly these people do not fare well in prison, nor do their families. However, the law is the law, and if you break it, you are subject to the associated penalties--regardless of how "well" you will handle prison. Unless, of course, you are a pampered, coddled trust-fund baby better suited for 1000-count Egyptian cotton sheets than a prison cot. After all, prison will just be too hard for you without the manicures, massages, and all. In theory, the penalties associated with a crime should reflect the seriousness of the crime, with little or no consideration of the socio-economic status of the offender. However, the "affluenza" defense is quickly gaining notoriety for its claim that certain wealthy, privileged individuals are simply too delicate to handle the rigors of prison, or that they are too spoiled to truly understand that their actions have consequences. "Affluenza" became a household term after a Texas teen was given no jail time after causing a drunk driving accident that killed four people. An expert witness testified that Ethan Couch was himself a victim, used to a privileged lifestyle in which his parents never set limits for him. In other words, he was too spoiled to understand the consequences of his actions. The judge in that case said that the affluenza defense had no bearing on her sentencing decision, but that she felt the young man would be better served by treatment than incarceration. Certainly, treatment can be a better option. But should that be provided only to those who can afford it? Typically, treatment in lieu of jail is given to DUI offenders or drug offenders--not sex offenders. In Oklahoma, certain sex crimes are ineligible for deferred or suspended sentencing. There is no "fourth degree rape" in our state, and child rape carries the possibility of life in prison. Actually, by statute, it is still punishable by death, but the United States Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty unconstitutional for any acts other than first degree murder. That does not mean Oklahoma is without its own controversy when it comes to sentencing sex offenders. In 2009, David Harold Earls was convicted of raping a 4-year-old girl. He accepted a plea bargain which sentenced him to 20 years with 19 years suspended, meaning he was given only a year in jail for child rape. He was later indicted for sex crimes against additional victims, but died in 2011 before that case could go to trial.  

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