A Montgomery County, Maryland judge with a long history of rulings against women has angered law enforcement officials for a decision that may have led to further sexual abuse of a now 15-year-old girl. Circuit Court Judge Durke Thompson allowed Sidney Richardson, the girl’s stepfather – who had already pleaded guilty to earlier sexual abuse of the girl over the course of 17 months when she was 9 and 10 – to return to live with her. The stepfather’s return in January 2001 allegedly resulted in further sexual contact that was reported to authorities after the girl gave birth in November. In May, the girl’s mother told authorities that she suspected that Richardson, her husband, had fathered the child. Richardson has been a fugitive since then. The case only came to light publicly this month when law enforcement added Richardson to a new Web site listing fugitives in the county located just outside of Washington, DC.
“It doesn’t take omniscience to see the red flags in this case. It’s not news that sexual offenders are likely to repeat their crimes,” the Washington Post wrote in a recent editorial condemning Thompson for his gross lack of judgment. “The judge had a responsibilityÉto protect a child who had no other recourse, and if the facts alleged in this case are true, he failed miserably.”
In March 1998, Richardson was sentenced to 18 months in jail after pleading guilty before Thompson to child abuse and a third-degree sex offense for sexual contact with the girl when she was 9 and 10. When Richardson was released in October 1999, Thompson allowed him to periodically visit with his wife and stepdaughter. Last year, Thompson allowed Richardson to return to live in girl’s home despite objections from the prosecutor, Richardson’s therapist and parole officer. “I’m not responsible for people committing crimes,” Thompson told the Post. “People violate probation all the time.”
Two years ago, Thompson told an 11-year-old sexual assault victim during the sentencing hearing for her assailant: “It takes two to tango.” While the assailant, 23-year-old Vladimir Chacon-Bonilla, could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, Thompson imposed a lenient sentence of 18 months in prison and three years’ probation, including a ruling not to require the perpetrator to register as a sex offender. In March, Thompson overturned a jury’s guilty verdict in a rape case – claiming that the victim, an illegal immigrant from Indonesia, might have been seeking revenge against the defendant, who had been her boyfriend, because he refused to marry her, according to the Post.