Now THIS Is An Unethical Sentence!

This time, it's the Judge who has "affluenza"...

This time, it’s the Judge who has “affluenza”…

He’s not a juvenile. He’s a middle-aged man, and a DuPont heir, living off of his trust fund. He’s also a child rapist, and the child he raped was his daughter, who was three.

Nonetheless, Delaware Judge Jan Jurden sentenced Robert H. Richards IV to treatment rather than jail.

Why, you ask? Well, he’s rich, you see, and the judge didn’t think he would “fare well” in prison. You know: bad food, drab clothes, cramped accommodations, minimal cultural opportunities; maybe the occasional prison rape. Juden’s ridiculous sentence has only became known as the result of a lawsuit filed by the tycoon child rapist’s ex-wife, who asks for civil damages on behalf of her children. In addition to alleging that Richards penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, his ex says she can prove that he sexually assaulted their then infant son too. In his criminal case, Richards was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape, which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. He accepted, and admitted  sexual assaulting his daughter.

Judge Jurden then decided that he was too delicate for prison. Obviously she would have felt differently if he had been toughened by poverty, public schools and a life of labor. It is not often that a judge’s sentence, all by itself, appears to violate the judicial ethics prohibition against conduct that gives the appearance of impropriety, but this sentence qualifies.


This sentence embodies all of the accusations of those who assert that there are two Americas, and that the justice system as well as society, government, and the economic system operates on a set of rigged double standards. Richards wouldn’t fare well in jail? Nobody is supposed to fare well in jail. That’s why it’s called “punishment.”  There is no way to defend a sentence like this, and only one way to explain it. Sometimes privilege rules the day, bias triumphs over fairness, incompetence reigns supreme, and some judges should be slinging burgers instead of sitting on a bench.


Pointer: Lianne Best

Source: Huffington Post

Graphic: Pacovilla

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


27 thoughts on “Now THIS Is An Unethical Sentence!

  1. I agree with your overall point, but I take issue with you tossing in “and maybe the occasional prison rape” to the list of snarky complaints a rich person might have about prison, alongside bad food and boring clothes. I can’t stand those who gloat about how a criminal is going to go be cellmates with Bubba, or dropping the soap. Rape is a crime, and has no place as an accepted part of our criminal justice system. It’s just as repellent as guards who let slip that the new guy is a molester so he will be beaten or killed by the other inmates- it makes a mockery of the order of the system.

    • As Jack has often lamented the cultural acceptance of prison rape in his blogs, as well as the fact that there seems little done to combat it within the correctional system, I don’t believe his intent was to gloat about it. He was simply illustrating his point that prison is not a pleasant place and that a less-privileged child rapist would be subject to the realities of that environment which include a lot of terrible things, including possible sexual assault.

    • Who was gloating? I’ve written here, more than once, about the unconscionable tolerance of prison rape as part of the American incarceration experience, and especially how TV procedural routinely use it to taunt the bad guys who are arrested. I agree : it has no place as an accepted part of the penal system, but the fact is that it IS a part, and if it’s unpleasant for a 25 year-old black drug dealer, it’s no more unpleasant for a pampered DuPont heir.

      I am still thankful that you raised the issue, but the post doesn’t do what you accuse it of doing.

      Some previous commentary on the topic is here and here.

      • Sorry, I was unclear- I know that YOU aren’t part of that crowd, I just thought that the way you tossed the concept onto the pile of petty complaints minimized a serious and systemic issue.

        • A valid point. I certainly didn’t intend it that way. The device was to list trivial points and end with one that slammed home the main one: that prison isn’t a picnic for anyone.

          • Gotcha. It looked to me like you were carelessy including that in the list of trivalities, but I see what you were doing now. Sorry for the comment appearing to accuse you of worse!

  2. This dirtbag was raping his own three year old daughter for two years.
    I personally don’t care what happens to him…oh, wait, I do care…I hope he suffers every day for the rest of his worthless life.
    Prison rape should be the least of his worries.

    • An argument can be made that this kind of behavior is as heinous a disruption of the health of the Community as murder is, worthy of punishments equitable to those we reserve for murder.

  3. I was wondering if you would cover this story. I agree with your analysis completely. Now wait for the hordes to descend and argue that this is inconsistent with your treatment of the juvenile who was sentenced to spa prison for vehicular manslaughter.

  4. The criminal company and unpleasant conditions of prison are exactly intended to be harsh punishment/deterrent for people like this. It’s what they’re best used for. For most gangsters or career criminals, the shame and environment of prison is little deterrent; they’re with their peer group.

    If we’re going to send softies who consider themselves decent/not criminal to treatment programs/white collar institutions specially for softies, BECAUSE they are softies, then the prisons aren’t even a threat to them anymore. Congratulations, you’ve managed to make the justice system even less useful!

  5. It is not often that a judge’s sentence, all by itself, appears to violate the judicial ethics prohibition against conduct that gives the appearance of impropriety, but this sentence qualifies.

    I would disagree, simply because it needed the accompanying rationale to discredit it. Had the sentence truly been “all by itself”, we would simply have had to suppose (if we were being honest) that there was some reason not known to us to justify it.

  6. I think part of the calculation as to whether he’d fare well in prison was the whole “raped a 3-year old”… Child molesters don’t do well in captivity – they tend to die fairly early.

    I leave it up to the individual as to whether or not that is a bad thing.

  7. I would simply point out that this man committed the absolute worst crime a man can commit; child molestation. His own daughter, too- and at the age of three. If that fact alone isn’t enough to win him the death penalty or a hellish life in prison… what, indeed, does it take?

    It’s quite true that predators don’t “fare well” in prison. That’s because they’re at the lowest rung of the inmate social order. In fact, they’re often segregated from the general population merely to keep them alive. And not for their own sake, either, but for that of legal entanglements. Prison guards are no less repulsed by these creatures than the prisoners are. And how can it be otherwise for anyone who has even a shred of their human heritage alive within them?

    That, in turn, brings us to the question of the judge. By what reasoning did she place a human monster in some psychiatric hospital where he becomes an escape risk and remains a potential menace to children? Because of his family? Because she’s one of these apparent “new breed” of judges who seem to be acolytes of Alfred Kinsey and don’t consider sex with children that big a deal? Whatever; when you compromise with evil you become a part of it.

    This judge is undeserving to sit on this or any court by this action. I can’t think of what else she could have done to more fundamentally prove it. If she’s an elected judge, her party should disown her and the voters reject her… assuming that a recall isn’t possible. If appointed, the state legislature should make it a priority to impeach her. As Joe Biden’s son is the governor, one must assume that there would be little direction from him in this regard.

    • I have heard otherwise, that it is at least partially a myth that child molesters are treated significantly worse by other prisoners. Many of those in prison have poor education and poor judgement (leading to the behavior that got them there…).

      Child molesters, meanwhile, have developed a smooth-talking public persona that deflects suspicion and covers their heinous crimes. Gullible prisoners fall for the act, seduced you might say, and give the monster undo credibility within the prison system.

      We like to think that child molestation is a crime that is so gutturally horrible that not even the animals in prison can tolerate it. However this is a population that, while outside, routinely exploits children as drug mules or recruits into gangs. A population skewed younger where date rapists and fellow sexual offenders are far more prominent than the general population. This is a conceited, unapologetic bunch, where ordinary values cannot be assumed to exist.

      The prisons are full of ignoble, ignorant thugs. I can’t speak to the statistics (which I admit could flatly contradict me), but I have some anecdotal experience as a prison volunteer. An unapologetic child molester would not necessarily due any worse that anybody else. He would lie and flatter his way into acceptance, because he has no shame.

      • My experience in prisons goes back to the 1970s. I can’t answer for the current crop of inmates. Certainly, the modern era has produced an increasing instance of criminality with children as participants and victims. So perhaps my outlook is out of date. But in those days, the “small eyes” were routinely segregated from the general inmate population for their own protection. If this sort of thing has become so common now that this is no longer the case, it bespeaks of the frightening downward course our society has taken in regard to the most innocent among us.

  8. In all criminal justice reforms movements, a common and very valid complaint is “cookie cutter” sentencing, usually driven by the mentioned mandatory minimum sentences and not enough judicial recognition of individual circumstances or judicial discretion to individualize as warranted. Although ill phrased and highly criticized, this ruling recognizes those things.

    Sexual assault of a child is an awful thing. The younger the child, the more horrible; the fact that it is one’s own child is something that society cringes from and therefore shuts its eyes to. Incest is is one of the most frequent categories of child sexual abuse. It is also the category that responds the best to therapy and treatment. Therefore, it is the sub-category that, after confrontation, facing up to what one has done, and treatment, yields the very lowest of all low sexual re-offense rates, with some studies showing zero re-offense for incest offenders.

    Rather than vilification of a judge who may have just chosen the wrong words to define an otherwise appropriate decision, I would like to see this situation create instead an awareness of the prevalence of the crime and discussion, if not a public outcry, for the need of a comprehensive program of education and prevention in communities and schools in all states. Our present practice of punishing the crime after it has occurred and doing next to nothing to prevent it before it occurs does not work. Some studies show as high as 96% of all new sexual crime is committed by first time–never before charged–offenders. And by far the greatest majority of that is committed by persons known, and usually known and trusted, often loved, by the victims; and for children under the age of twelve, slightly over half are related to their victims.

    This is something that flourishes, and has flourished, whether we admit it or not, in darkness and in secret. It is time to bring it into the light, and the best way to do that is to place the emphasis on treatment and prevention rather than excessive punishment and a lifetime of shaming that harms the victim as much as the offender.

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