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GEORGETOWN, Del. — A judge on Wednesday ruled that court filings will remain open in a civil lawsuit against du Pont family heir Robert H. Richards IV, who admitted raping his daughter and who the suit claims also sexually abused his son.
Superior Court Judge Richard F. Stokes ruled against a request to seal the case made by Richards' lawyer, who argued that publicity about the lawsuit could be harming the children. The "assumption that proceedings are open to the public" was not overridden by the arguments Stokes heard, the judge ruled.
"There is a First Amendment concern," Stokes said. "That is a driving one."
Richards' ex-wife, Tracy Richards, sued him in March, alleging that he had abused his son, who is now 9, when the boy was an infant at family homes in Greenville and Rehoboth Beach.
In 2008, Richards pleaded guilty to fourth-degree rape of his daughter when she was 3 years old. He received no prison time and was sentenced to probation.
"John D. Balaguer, Richards lawyer, asked Stokes to rule that any court papers filed dealing with medical, mental health or nonpublic financial details about the people involved be sealed from public inspection.
The conviction and sentence gained public attention after Tracy Richards filed the civil case. Balaguer said Tracy Richards could be harming her children by bringing the conviction into the limelight with her lawsuit.
The suit has prompted widespread uproar after it was revealed that Richards faced no jail time and the judge in his case included in her sentencing order that he would "not fare well" in prison. Superior Court Judge Jan R. Jurden agreed to Richards' probation on the condition that he be accepted for in-patient treatment at a Massachusetts hospital, but he never received the treatment. Attorney General Beau Biden has defended how his prosecutors handled the case.
Richards, 47, is a member of the du Pont family, who built the worldwide chemical company, and the Richards family, co-founders of the prestigious corporate law firm Richards Layton & Finger.
Contributing: Cris Barrish of The News Journal