BALOG COLUMN: Weighing suspect's risk to community
Dale Richardson is accused of kidnapping and rape, and he could soon be out on bail.
Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith Jr. ruled last week that Richardson's bail should be set at $250,000, as Natalie Caula reported. If and when Richardson is released, he is supposed to be under house arrest at his home in Summerville from dusk to dawn, with limited privileges to leave for medical or legal appointments, or to go to work or church.
That sounds good in theory. It sounds slightly less encouraging when you consider that Richardson was pastor of Freedom Freewill Baptist Church in Lincolnville, and that two of the alleged rapes happened in a trailer behind the church.
He would also be monitored by GPS, which is another protective measure. But this presents a false sense of security, said Pamela Jacobs, executive director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
“It somewhat implies that there are only certain places that someone will commit rape, or certain times of day,” Jacobs said. “There are some misconceptions about how and when sexual assault happens,” she said. “While it's helpful to know where the perpetrator is, that won't necessarily guarantee the safety of the community.”
The 1st District Solicitor's Office recommended that the judge deny bail. And one of the victims asked that Richardson not be released.
1st Circuit Assistant Solicitor Don Sorenson said electronic monitoring can be effective if done properly. He said he was aware of the problems that had been reported in Charleston County, though.
“The problem is that there is nothing that is obviously perfect,” said Scott Bischoff, who represented Richardson at the March hearing.
An electronic monitor is just that, a monitor. It is not a behavioral control device. It won't stop somebody from committing a crime.
“It does add some accountability, but definitely not as much as having the person incarcerated,” Jacobs said.
In the worst-case scenario, as Glenn Smith reported last year, a Folly Beach rape suspect who was released on house arrest was accused of sexually assaulting another woman while he was wearing his GPS monitor.
Now, Richardson has spent more than 600 days in jail, which is not unusual for someone accused of a violent crime, Sorenson said. “There are some people that stay in jail up until the time their case is disposed,” Sorenson said.
Richardson also was evaluated by forensic psychiatrist William Burke, who said in a letter filed with court paperwork that “it is my professional opinion that Mr. Richardson can be safely contained in the community under my supervision.” His lawyers agree.
“We do not have any concerns whatsoever about him being a danger to the community,” Bischoff said after the March hearing.
In that same letter, Burke, who did not return a phone message Monday or after the hearing in March, also said that Richardson “falls into the medium level of risk category.”
No word yet on whether the community was consulted, or is comfortable with a medium level of risk.