Pastor gets sentenced for rape, petition calls out Knoxville judge for light punishment

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An online petition has been started calling on the removal of Knox County Judge Steven Sword.

Lisa Morris started the online petition. on change.org on Friday.

In the petition, Morris said, "I call on Tennessee Governor Lee to remove Judge Steven Sword from his position, after he failed to properly sentence Pastor David Richards to adequate prison time" for his crimes.

More than 17,000 people have signed the online petition. Some said the judge was too lenient. After digging deeper, WVLT learned the judge was doing his job.

Since this is the 41-year-old's first offence, he would get the minimum sentence instead of the max.

The judge sentenced David Richards Jr. to a total of 41 years on nine charges ranging from rape to sexual battery. Most of those years will be served concurrently, which means many of the counts will be served at the same time. So, he will be behind bars anywhere from 9 years to 12 years.

UT Law Professor Penny White said the law allows judges flexibility during sentencing.

"The legislature has taken away a great deal of discretion, but left just a little bit with the understanding that no two offenders are alike and there has to be some ability for the person who hears the case to get to know the defendant by virtue of presenting information to individualize a sentence," White said.

Richard's maximum sentence could have been 66 years.

Judge Sword was elected in 2011 and before that was an Assistant District Attorney from 1995 to 2011.

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Previous Story:
A Knox County man was convicted on charges of child molestation after the victim told a guidance counselor about the abuse.

David Lynn Richards, Jr., 41, was convicted of Sexual Battery by an Authority Figure, Rape, Statutory Rape by an Authority Figure, Sexual Activity Involving a Minor, and others.

The same day the report was submitted, the Knox County Sheriff's Office began an investigation which revealed DNA evidence from the victim's bed which was confirmed to belong to Richards by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. According to the report, officers discovered that Richards attempted to destroy evidence of his crimes by resetting his phone, remotely resetting the victim's phone, and washing the sheets on the victim's bed.

Judge Steve Sword revoked Richards' bond and set the case for sentencing March 28. Prosecutors say they plan to pursue the maximum sentencing in the case which could be up to 12 years

Copyright 2019 Gray Television Group, Inc. All rights reserved


David Richards was sentenced on May 9th to 12 years in prison