A pastor facing life in prison for raping his 14-year-old daughter was shown mercy by a judge who was impressed by his alleged religious faith. David Richards, 41, was sentenced to 12 years in jail on Thursday in Knox County Tennessee for raping his adoptive daughter.
As he handed down the lenient sentence, Judge Steve Sword cited Richard’s work as a pastor and the Bible study he began in jail as mitigating factors. Richards was found guilty of rape, incest, and sexual battery by an authority figure for abusing his daughter, Amber Richards, for two years beginning when she was 14, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Victims of sexual crimes are not typically identified in court, but Amber chose to testify publicly after her adoptive father was convicted in February.
She delivered a heart-wrenching victim statement Thursday, saying : ‘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 victimize another girl,’ she continued.
Prosecutors said Richards abused his daughter for two years before she reported it to authorities. Upon investigation, forensic testing found traces of Richards’ semen on the girl’s bed frame. Richards, however, claimed that he was innocent as he took the witness stand in his own defense.
He said: ‘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 (God’s) purpose,’ he said. Richards was formerly a pastor at My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City.
In court on Thursday, more than 30 parishioners and friends sat on Richards’ side of the courtroom in a show of support. David Thomspon, who shared ministry duties with Richards, testified and expressed doubt at the charges, saying: ‘I find it impossible for me to believe he’s guilty of this.
His business needs him. His family needs him. Our church needs him.’ Under state law, all the charges Richards was convicted of could have been punished by only probation, except for sexual battery by an authority figure that carries a minimum of three years in prison. Richards is currently seeking a new trial.
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