A judge sentenced 41-year-old David Richards to a softer prison sentence because he is a "man of God."
Richards had been charged for repeatedly raping his 14-year-old daughter over a period of two years, and the prosecution was seeking a 72-year sentence.
However, Judge Steven Sword only sentenced Richards to a 12-year prison term, citing Richards’ work as a pastor and the Bible study group he formed in jail as the mitigating factors behind his lenient sentence.
The Knox County Tennessee pastor had been found guilty of rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure for the two-year abuse of his adopted daughter, Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
His victim, Amber, who waived her right to anonymity, maintained that she believes that "given the opportunity," he could attack another girl.
In her emotional victim statement, Amber stated: "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.”
Richards maintained his innocence throughout the trial and went as far as to try to paint his victim as a rebellious teenager who made the allegations of sexual abuse just to act out against his strict parenting rules.
However, forensic testing found presence of his semen on the girl's bed frame.
"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," Richards said.
In February, following her dad’s guilty verdict, Amber said: "I'm glad I can finally move on with my life. I didn't really do this for me, I did it so it didn't happen to anyone else, so nobody's in the same situation as I am, especially kids, they don't deserve to go through things to do that. If I have to be the one to make sure that it never happens again I don't mind doing that."
Richards is a former pastor at My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City.
Over 30 members of his congregation showed their support on Thursday by sitting on his side of the courtroom.
David Thompson, who worked on ministry duties with Richards, testified in Richards’ defense, stating: "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."
Richards is currently seeking a new trial.
Sources: The Sun