- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

Man gets 10 years for raping girl — again. Again? Yes, this was the head-shaking headline in the Metropolitan section of The Washington Times on Friday.

What an outrage. Sidney R. Richardson was sentenced Thursday by Judge Louise G. Scrivener to 10 years in prison for raping and impregnating his 14-year-old stepdaughter, this after Montgomery County Circuit Judge Durke G. Thompson reduced an earlier and similar 10-year sentence to 18 months in 1998. And after the 53-year-old sexual predator was released from prison, Judge Thompson allowed him to go back and live in the same house with the same child he began raping when she was 9.

Unbelievably, the much-maligned judge did so at the mother’s request, but that excuse serves as little cover.

Sure, the mother should share the blame and needs help, too, for surely she harbors regrets, given that Richardson cleared out her bank account and disappeared for a couple of years when she started to suspect that her daughter was pregnant with his child. (That DNA test will find you guilty every time.)

Didn’t Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. pronounce this as the “Year of the Child”? Well, maybe he could start at the primary place of residence for Maryland’s defenseless children who, at the very least, should not fear being raped repeatedly by the insensitive, ignorant or inattentive adults the state and its designated officers assign or allow to protect them.

Mr. Ehrlich may not get any more respect from the General Assembly, but he could get more attention from potential supporters if, as part of his child-focused agenda, he highlighted domestic violence and sexual abuse in an effort to drastically change the prospects of teenage girls who are living lives not unlike Richardson’s stepdaughter.

Kudos, meanwhile, go to Judge Scrivener, who obviously understands the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to send the message that such behavior will not be tolerated. That’s probably why she gave Richardson a maximum 10-year sentence last week after he pleaded guilty to one count of a third-degree sex offense.

Clearly, Judge Scrivener is one jurist who understands that sexual predators don’t change even with imprisonment and counseling. If anything, they get more emboldened, which is why pedophiles must be constantly monitored and databases must be continually updated to alert parents about released sex offenders.

What could Judge Thompson have been thinking when he allowed Richardson to return to his wife’s home and set up that little girl for more abuse? What must Judge Thompson be thinking now, knowing the sad outcome?

We await a public apology, not just to the community for being so lenient on sex offenders but specifically to the young girl, whose life he is partially responsible for derailing.

However, Delegate Jean Cryor, Montgomery Republican and president of the Women’s Legislative Caucus, spoke to The Times’ Jon Ward about Judge Thompson’s decision to allow Richardson back into his stepdaughter’s home.

“I’m absolutely confused. I couldn’t understand it, and I remain confused as to how someone who I know is a fine person and has daughters of his own allowed this to happen,” said Mrs. Cryor, who lives in Potomac, as does Judge Thompson.

“I’ve known him for years to be kindhearted, affable, good-hearted, a wonderful father and husband, a good neighbor. It just leaves me confused,” she said. Me, too. Just to jar your memory, Judge Thompson made the incredulous statement from the bench in January 2000 that “it takes two to tango” in the case of an 11-year-old girl who was molested by a 23-year-old man she met on the Internet.

Judge Thompson blamed the girl, in part, but later apologized and said his statements were taken out of context. However, he deserved the warning he received from the state Commission on Judicial Disabilities.

Later this month, Richardson must appear before Judge Thompson for a parole violation on his first conviction for, of all things, leaving his wife’s home.

Judge Thompson must reinstate the original 10-year sentence Mr. Richardson faced to run consecutively with the punishment laid out by Judge Scrivener.

Then Judge Thompson should use his power and make it his duty to ensure that the child, along with her mother, gets all the help they will need to help raise a healthy baby, who will not continue the cycle of domestic abuse and molestation.

You wouldn’t think an officer of the court living in a house filled with women would need it, but Judge Thompson clearly needs a crash course on the insidious and too often ignored instances of domestic violence and child abuse. Maybe the next time he is facing a pedophile or pervert, he will treat the victim with the respect she deserves and the perpetrator with the harshness he deserves.

On Feb. 24, Judge Thompson gets the rare opportunity to make slight amends. Let’s hope he doesn’t abuse it.

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