Even when it comes to violent crimes, the wealthy get away with murder
It’s no secret that the United States has a two tiered justice system. We have a system for our wealthy citizens and another for everyone else. If you thought this was just in cases of drug possession and petty crimes, think again.
It is true that rich people, minors and adults alike, rarely go to jail for drug offences. If you want a prime example, look no further than Mendocino County, California. Mendocino allows certain marijuana offenders to pay $50 per pot plant and $500 per pound to the cops in order to avoid prison time. If you’re poor, guess where you’re going.
This type of two tiered justice system is all too common in the country, so much so that I needn’t bother discussing it further. We all know it exists. However, you might be unaware of how often the wealthy get away with violent crimes like sexual assault, rape and even murder.
Yes, our two tiered justice system has become so bad that the wealthy among us don’t even have to buy their way out. Lately, people have gotten away with extremely light sentences simply on the basis that they are rich.
Robert H. Richards IV
Take the case of Robert H. Richards IV. He is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. To be more specific, he’s the great grandson of Irenee du Pont, of the Du Pont Chemical Company. A 1% man if there ever was one.
Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape for raping his infant son and three year old daughter. If convicted of the charges, he would have faced a minimum ten year sentence.
Naturally, Richards went and hired one of the state’s top law firms and was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. Richards accepted and admitted to the assault.
When it came time for sentencing, Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden said Richards “will not fare well” in prison. Richards was given probation and rehabilitation instead. A confessed rapist basically avoided prison because the judge thought a wealthy man could not handle prison.
Samuel Curtis Johnson III
A billionaire from Wisconsin, Johnson is the heir to the SC Johnson cleaning supplies empire. Johnson was originally charged with felony sexual assault of a child for repeatedly targeting his stepdaughter for three years.
Apparently the stepdaughter told her mother about the abuse in order to protect her younger sister, and Johnson confessed when the mother confronted him. Johnson faced up to 40 years in prison.
The charges had to be downgraded to a misdemeanor when the court held that the stepdaughter could not testify unless she and her mother released her medical records. Johnson’s lawyers wanted the records to see if the stepdaughter had reported the abuse to her therapist. They refused and the case fell apart without her testimony.
Samuel Curtis Johnson was sentenced to four months in jail, but will likely serve only sixty days.
In the worst example of our two tiered justice system, we find Ethan Couch. A rich sixteen year-old from Texas. Couch stole some beer from a local Walmart with his buddies, jumped into his pickup truck and ran over a woman whose car broke down, ran over two people who came to help her, and a passerby. All four of them died.
Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the Texas limit when the police tested him three hours later. He pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter by intoxication and two counts of assault by intoxication causing bodily injury. Two of his friends in the bed of the truck were seriously injured with one losing the ability to walk.
Ethan Couch killed four people and severely injured two others, for that, he got probation. His lawyers claimed Couch suffered from “affluenza,” which basically means he was unable to link his bad behavior with any consequences due to his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege.
He didn’t get off by buying his freedom like you see in the movies, he got off just because he’s a spoiled rich brat. Couch’s legal team had suggested he attend a posh Southern California treatment facility that would cost his family $450,000 a year, but the judge refused. Instead his parents are sending him somewhere that costs just $1170. Those poor bastards.
As inequality rises in the country, so too will the inequality of the two tiered justice system. So long as we continue to elect wealthy politicians who nominate wealthy judges to the bench, not much is going to change. When you have people living in a bubble being judged by people in the same bubble, this is often the outcome.