A former Tennessee pastor who repeatedly raped his adopted teenage daughter has been given an effective 12 year prison sentence after dozens of parishioners showed up to court to support him.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum term of 72 years behind bars for 41-year-old David Richards, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
But a judge cited his longtime ministry and the support he still receives as mitigating factors after more than 30 people showed up to support Richards at the sentencing last week.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword also pointed to the fact he had started a Bible study for fellow inmates at the Knox County Detention Facility.
The victim was 16 when she reported the abuse by her sole guardian, saying it began two years earlier.
Amber Richards, who chose to speak publicly after the February verdicts, said in her victim impact statement: ‘I wanted to throw my body away.’
Joined by her biological parents she added: ‘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 young girl.’
She told authorities where they could find DNA evidence at her home and said Richards had texted her about taking their relationship ‘to the next level.’
Authorities said they found her mattress stripped bare and his phone factory reset, but they were able to recover his DNA.
But Richards, who continued to maintain his innocence, claimed his young victim made her allegations of sexual abuse because of his strict parenting.
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 purpose.’
Richards was found guilty by a jury on nine felony counts, including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure in February. He is seeking a new trial.
David Thompson, who worked alongside Richards at My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, said: ‘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.’