It looks like I was partly wrong a few weeks ago when I commented on the story of a rich white defendant who received only probation for raping a 3-year-old. The judge in the case was originally reported as being concerned that the defendant “would not fare well” in prison. But the ABA Journal reports that this is incorrect, and the hearing transcript reveals that the judge was actually quite concerned about the man not serving prison time, but agreed to assign him probation based on a plea deal worked out between the prosecutors and the defense:
Jurden expressed some reluctance about the sentence, the transcript indicates. “I have concerns about this,” Jurden told Richards at the hearing, “because arguably you should be at Level Five [prison] for what you did, and I hope you understand the gravity of what you did.”
Richards answered that he does understand.
“But I think that you have significant treatment needs that have to be addressed, and you have very strong family support,” Jurden said. “So, unlike many other unfortunate people who come before me, you are lucky in that regard, and I hope you appreciate that.”
So, basically, her attitude was the opposite of what was reported, and the opposite of what I addressed in my post. Judge Jurden herself recognized the unfairness of the system that gave some, but not others, a way to avoid prison time.
It should also be noted that the plea deal seems to have come about because the prosecution’s case — as is often true in child rape/molestation cases — was relatively weak, and would have required putting a child victim on the stand:
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden has said the plea deal considered weaknesses in the case. There was no medical or forensic evidence in the case and the only eyewitness was the 4-year-old victim. “This was not a strong case, and a loss at trial was a distinct possibility,” Biden wrote to the Delaware News Journal.
So it’s understandable that the prosecutors took the deal, and that Judge Jurden reluctantly approved it. I apologize for the error and can only say I was relying on the best information available at the time. (I did look for the transcript when I wrote my post, but was not able to find it.)
All that said, I stand by two aspects of my previous post. First, I think Richards, as a rich man, was in a better negotiating position than most people charged with crimes. He had access to more expensive legal counsel (and all the investigative resources that come with that), including for an appeal if he lost, and so he was more able to stand firm and press for a lenient plea deal. And second, prison as presently constituted in most states is still not good for people, and does not produce socially desirable outcomes.