Though Robert H. Richards IV was convicted of rape, the wealthy heir to the du Pont family fortune was spared prison by a Delaware court in 2009 because he would “not fare well” behind bars, according to court documents CNN obtained Tuesday.
Richards is a great-grandson of the chemical magnate Irenee du Pont.
He received an eight-year prison sentence in 2009 for raping his toddler daughter, but the sentencing order signed by Delaware judge Judge Jan R. Jurden said “defendant will not fare well” in prison and the eight years were suspended.
Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden’s decision to order probation instead of prison for a du Pont family heir who raped his young daughter has led to threats against her and calls for her removal from the bench.
But allies in the legal community have rallied to her defense.
In a letter to the News Journal, Attorney General Beau Biden said Thursday the case against Robert H. Richards IV was weak and prosecutors offered an appropriate plea bargain that spared him prison while convicting him of a felony sex crime.
Biden defended Jurden, writing that the judge “exercised sound discretion based solely on the merits of the case before her” and doesn’t let a defendant’s “wealth or social status” influence her decisions.
Biden’s office, which had originally charged him with two counts of second-degree rape punishable by a minimum prison term of 20 years, had given Richards the plea deal to fourth-degree rape and recommended probation.
Biden’s chief deputy, Ian McConnel, has said prosecutor Renee Hrivnak should have sought prison time. But in his letter to the News Journal, Biden wrote that Hrivnak recommended probation because that conviction “guaranteed” Richards would have to register as a sex offender.
Lawyers for Tracy Richards, who identified her children in the civil lawsuit, said they cannot discuss the criminal case, including whether her daughter was prepared to testify, the mother’s knowledge or feelings about the plea deal, and whether she attended the sentencing. The mother is prohibited from commenting because of limitations put in place this week by the judge handling the case, her lawyers said.
“They have for the time being stopped Tracy from responding to reports like AG Biden’s,” said Raeann Warner, one of Tracy Richards’ attorneys. “And they have stopped her lawyers and anyone working with them from commenting.”
Meanwhile Biden gets to comment. The Delaware GOP responded by challenging Beau Biden for trying to have it both ways.
The head of Delaware’s Republican party questioned Friday why Attorney General Beau Biden, a Democrat, did not know about a plea bargain that allowed a du Pont family heir to avoid prison for raping his young daughter.
Biden’s statement in a Thursday letter to The News Journal that he ran for attorney general to protect children from harm is “simply inconsistent” with his spokesman’s earlier assertion that Biden was unaware of what should have been a “high-profile” case, said John Fluharty, executive director of the state GOP.
During that period, Fluharty wrote, “the Biden family was focused on Joe Biden’s run for the White House, and his posturing to be selected as the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee in 2008,” Fluharty suggested.
“The question needs to be asked if the Attorney General was focused more on his family’s national political agenda rather doing the job of Attorney General in late 2007 and 2008? Further, why was the Attorney General not aware of this high profile case which resulted in his office striking a plea deal? Was this just gross incompetence on his part?”
Richards, who turned 48 Thursday, is the great-grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont and the son of Robert H. Richards III, a retired partner in the Richards Layton & Finger law firm.
It’s doubtful that Beau Biden was so focused on the race that he would have overlooked an opportunity like this. Prosecutors normally dream of cases like these. That Beau Biden avoided touching it, speaks volumes.
Joe Biden scored $70k in contributions from Richards Layton & Finger. And then there’s this…
State Prosecutor Kathleen M. Jennings could not discuss the case, McConnel said, because she had represented Richards while he was on probation. Jennings, a former chief deputy attorney general, rejoined the office in November 2011 after about 15 years in private practice. She would not say when she represented Richards.
There’s something rotten in the state of Delaware.