A former pastor convicted of repeatedly raping his adopted teenage daughter was given a lenient sentence because he’s ‘a good Christian’.
David Lynn Richards Jr. was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Thursday (May 9) by a Knox County judge, despite prosecutors recommending the maximum term of 72 years.
The judge reportedly took the man’s ‘longtime ministry’ and the fact that he was supported by so many people in the courtroom into account when handing him the lenient sentence.
Richards was found guilty of nine felony counts, including rape, incest, and sexual battery by an authority figure for abusing his adoptive daughter, Amber Richards, for two years beginning when she was 14, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
The court heard from the victim, who chose to waive her anonymity and speak publicly after the verdicts were made. She was subjected to the abuse for two years prior to reporting the crimes.
Delivering her impact statement, Amber said:
I wanted to throw my body away. Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me… I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimise another young girl.
Throughout the sentencing, Amber sat on the opposite side of the courtroom and was joined by half-a-dozen others, including her biological parents who she has reconnected with in recent years.
Richards maintained his innocence throughout the trial, asking for leniency from Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword.
The former pastor took to the stand in his own defence, claiming Amber was a defiant teenager who didn’t appreciate his attempts to impose strict rules for his children.
I stand before you convicted of crimes I did not commit. I simply believe the system just erred in this case. I’m not sure why I’m here… but I assume it’s for His purpose.
However, forensic testing uncovered the presence of seminal fluid on the girl’s bed frame which was then matched to Richards via DNA testing.
Charles here robbed a Popeyes with a toy gun when he was 16 and the judge sentenced him to 40 years in prison. After I spent five years and almost $200,000 getting him out after 19 years served it's clear there's no justice in the so-called justice system. pic.twitter.com/xpEYttgL6q
— Chief Resistance Officer (@crushthebigots) May 14, 2019
The judge had a lot of freedom when making his sentencing decision, as most of the charges Richards was convicted of – including rape – are punishable by probation alone under state law.
Only the charge of sexual battery by an authority figure requires a minimum of three years mandatory imprisonment. However, prosecutors sought the maximum term of 72 years behind bars.
Ultimately, the judge weighed the severity of the crimes against Richards’ longtime ministry and the support he received from friends and family in court. Sword noted both the time frame of the abuse and Richards’ abuse of his position of trust as the girl’s sole guardian.
Richards has since hired a new attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson, who made clear his intention to seek a new trial.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30).
Alternatively you can contact Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111. Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on its website or on its helpline – 0808 800 5005.
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).