On Thursday of last week, former pastor David L. Richards Jr. 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.
Richards’ sentence went viral not for the punishment he received, but for the punishment he didn’t receive. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the sentence was 60-years less than what prosecutors were seeking because the judge was so impressed with Richards’ life as a pastor and the bible study group he started while in jail.
Now, there’s a petition to have Judge Steve Sword removed from the bench.
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.”
In the wake of the Sentinel’s report, a petition was launched with the goal of reaching 8,000 signatures.
“I call on Tennessee Governor Lee to remove Judge Steven Sword from his position, after he failed to properly sentence Pastor David Richards to adequate prison time for repeatedly raping, over 4 years, his adopted 14- yr old daughter,” the petition’s creator Lisa Morris wrote.
When the petition blew past its initial goal, a new goal of 10,000 was set. As of this writing, the petition has a total of 11,490 signatures and climbing.
In the comment section of the petition, messages of anger for Richards and empathy for his daughter were plentiful.
“The damage of 4 years of incest will impact this child for the rest of her life. She has a life sentence,” signatory Angela Hardy wrote. “…She will likely struggle with mental health issues, physical health issues and has a 50% chance of a shortened life span because of this trauma. Judges need to be educated on trauma to make decisions about sentencing that are appropriate. Not based on the behavior of the accused but on the impact to the victim. The victim is the entire reason the court proceedings have taken place.”
“I believe in a separation of church and state,” Debra Hendricks wrote. “Being a ‘good Christian’ should not [warrant] a lesser sentence to a crime. Sentencing based on religion is against the law. Judge needs to go!”
One person even suggested the judge’s sentence had ulterior motives.
“Someone get some detective work done on this guy,” Jocelyn Churchill wrote. “I can only imagine a fellow POS would allow such a massively soft ruling on the POS ‘Pastor.'”
After the story went viral Judge Sword deleted his Facebook profile.
Featured image: tncourts.gov/Knox County Sheriff’s Office