The du Pont family history goes back to the French Revolution. Now, the family is huge. Around 4,000 members share the $16 billion family fortune. They’ve had notable members, like Pete du Pont, the former governor of Delaware; but they’ve also had their share of criminals, like John du Pont, who was found guilty of the murder of David Schultz, the Olympian gold medalist, and Robert Richards, whose story we explore in this episode of Dark Capital.
On February 6, 2009, Robert Richards admitted to raping his 3-year-old daughter. “I feel horrible,” he told the judge, according to court documents. “There’s no excuse for what I’ve done to her.”
His lawyer, calling the 6-foot-4, roughly 300-pound Richards “a somewhat gentle person,” argued he “would not fare well” in jail. Hours later, Richards walked away from Delaware Superior Court a free man. He pleaded guilty to a charge of rape in the fourth degree, paid a fine of $4,395 and promised to attend a high-end treatment center in Massachusetts.
Judge Jan Jurden, who presided over the case, had initially considered sentencing Richards to eight years in prison; ultimately she gave him eight years of probation. “I have concerns about this, because arguably, you should be [in jail] for what you did,” Jurden said during the sentencing. “But I think you have significant treatment needs that have to be addressed, and you have very strong family support. So unlike many unfortunate people who come before me, you are lucky in that regard, and I hope you appreciate that.”
Richards did have support that most convicts lacked. Upon his release, he went back to living on the proceeds of his multimillion-dollar trust fund, the result of being a member of one of Delaware’s most powerful families, the du Ponts. While he never worked for or had any affiliation with the DuPont company, he still benefits from the family fortune, which Forbes valued at $14.3 billion in 2016, and dates back 200 years in the state.
Richards also benefited from another, remarkable stroke of luck: The case was missed by the local press, and he avoided any negative attention. That is, until 2014, after his marriage had ended, and his ex-wife, Tracy Richards, sued him in civil court for monetary damages caused by his crime. Suddenly the earlier case became a national sensation—fueled by public outrage—and many were astonished that Richards had evaded jail time. Many also wondered what role his fortune played in keeping him a free man.
Dark Capital is a limited-run series that explores the intersection of business, wealth and crime. It’s featured on Sundays.
Read the full story on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/denizcam/2019/06/14/how-a-du-pont-heir-avoided-jail-time-for-a-heinous-crime/?sh=c10fec329dba
Subscribe to FORBES: https://www.youtube.com/user/Forbes?sub_confirmation=1
Forbes newsletters: https://newsletters.editorial.forbes.com
Forbes on Facebook: http://fb.com/forbes
Forbes Video on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/forbes
Forbes Video on Instagram: http://instagram.com/forbes
More From Forbes: http://forbes.com
Forbes covers the intersection of entrepreneurship, wealth, technology, business and lifestyle with a focus on people and success.
Download issues of Forbes Africa
- Single Digital Issue: African of The Year - Forbes Africa December 2020 (special issue) R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Nigeria 60 - Forbes Africa Oct/Nov 2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: James Mwangi Cover - Forbes Africa Aug/Sep2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa June/July 2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa April 2020 - 30 Under 30 R50.00