The Associated Press December 27, 2000, Wednesday Copyright 2000 The News Tribune The News Tribune December 27, 2000, Wednesday
(MONTESANO, Wash.) - A former Cosmopolis police chief has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex charges involving a minor, a sordid saga that began when the girl was 7 or 8 years old.
Aaron T. Richards, 57, of Aberdeen asked for mercy from Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge Mark McCauley at last week's hearing, saying he found God while in jail.
He repeated his contention that the sex acts were consensual. The girl is now a teenager.
Richards' sentence of 19 years and eight months is at the top end of the sentencing range.
His friend Dale C. Atwood, 58, who was depicted with the girl in sex videos and photographs seized at Richards' home, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months, a mid-range penalty.
Richards, who served briefly as Cosmopolis' acting police chief in 1975, most recently worked as a truck driver around Grays Harbor. Atwood had been a heavy equipment operator.
Richards pleaded guilty in November to four of the 26 charges against him: first-degree child molestation, possession of child pornography and two counts of first-degree child rape.
Atwood pleaded guilty to charges of first- and second-degree child rape. He asked Judge David Foscue to sentence him to sex-offender treatment instead of prison, but the judge concluded Atwood didn't seem to need it - that he simply "took advantage of an opportunity. I don't think (he) would do it again."
Before the hearing, deputy prosecutor Paul Conroy asked Foscue to watch a videotape of Atwood with the girl, then 11 or 12. On the tape, Atwood laughs and says, "I've been waiting since you were 7 for this."
Family members and friends wrote letters to the court on Atwood's behalf, some theorizing that he had been manipulated by Richards into participating.
A few said they would still trust him with their children.
"I wonder if their opinions would change if they saw the same tape," Conroy told the court.
During his November evaluation for sex offender treatment, Conroy noted that Atwood had said incidents would not have happened if the girl were not so "easy."
The victim attended the hearing with her parents, and Conroy read from her letter to the judge. Richards "made me his pet," she wrote, noting that she refused when he asked her to recruit her friends.
"None of it was your fault," McCauley told her, wondering aloud why nobody noticed there was something wrong.
The men's families are unhappy about the sentences, the girl said after the hearing, but they "didn't go through years of abuse."
Aberdeen police say the girl came to them in September.