This Thursday, 41-year-old Tennessee former pastor David Richards was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was convicted for raping his adopted daughter over a period of two years, starting when she was 14.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the sentence was 60 years less that what prosecutors were seeking. The judge presiding over the case was so impressed with Richards’ life as a pastor and the bible study group he started while in jail, that he handed down the less-harsh penalty.
Prosecutors sought the maximum term of 72 years behind bars.
The judge acknowledged Richards’ longtime ministry — he began a Bible study among his fellow inmates while jailed at the Knox County Detention Facility — and the support he still receives as mitigating factors.
Richards was convicted of rape, incest, and sexual battery carried out by an authority figure.
In her victim’s statement to the court, Richard’s adopted daughter, Amber Richards, said the experience made her want to “throw my body away.”
“Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me,” she said. “I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimize another girl.”
Richards has denied all the charges, and claims his daughter is a rebellious teenager who started making the accusations in response to his strict style of parenting. But during the course of the investigation, forensic testing found evidence of Richard’s semen on his daughter’s bed.
“I stand before you convicted of crimes I did not commit. I simply believe the system just erred in this case,” Richards said while taking the stand in his own defense.
“I’m not sure why I’m here…but I assume it’s for [God’s] purpose,” he added.
In a show of support, more than 30 parishioners and friends were present at Richards’ sentencing. He was formerly the pastor at My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City.
The Knoxville News Sentinel says it typically does not identify victims in sexual abuse cases, but Amber Richards chose to speak publicly after her step-father was convicted in February.
He’s currently seeking a new trial.
Featured image: Knox County Sheriff