Chattanooga foster dad sentenced to probation for rape of teen

There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and
lifting people up. -- John Andrew Holmes

A foster care provider who pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of his 16-year-old foster daughter wept Monday as he learned he would not have to go back to jail.

Richard Batson, 43, received a sentence of four years of probation from Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern after pleading guilty to statutory rape by an authority figure for a 2010 incident.

Despite the relatively light sentence, Batson's name will remain indefinitely on a sex offenders list.

Batson's attorney, Cindy Bice, claimed the relationship with the teenager was consensual and that Batson "was absolutely devastated" in its aftermath. He was 41 at the time, with young daughters of his own, she said.

A friend reported Batson to authorities after a series of texts in which Batson bragged about the sexual relationship, which included a threesome with a 39-year-old female neighbor who was also charged with statutory rape.

Julie Yoder also has pleaded guilty to statutory rape. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 17 before Stern.

During the sentencing hearing Monday, Batson's mother, teenage daughter and pastor were among those who defended Batson, who clasped his hands as prosecutor Bill Hall and Bice questioned the witnesses.

"I sense nothing but remorse from him," said Batson's pastor, Anthony Baker of Riverside Baptist Church.

Batson has coached softball teams at the church, and Baker said he would be fine with Batson coaching his daughters.

"This man had a threesome with a foster child in his care, and you'd be OK with him coaching your girls in softball?" Hall asked.

In her questions, Bice indicated that Batson was coping with a difficult divorce in 2010 and was regularly intoxicated during the time of the encounters with the teenager.

"I am not making an excuse for my client, my client is not making an excuse for his behavior but, in a divorce situation, people do things that they wouldn't otherwise do," Bice said after the hearing. "And that's why we have mitigating circumstances with regard to criminal charges. The man never had a traffic ticket."

After the sentencing, Batson wiped his eyes as he and his family slowly filed out of the courtroom, embracing and patting each other on the back. At one point, Batson picked up his 16-year-old daughter and spun her around.

The daughter had testified tearfully Monday about wanting her father at home. She was 14 and living with her mother at the time of the rape.

"I don't think my father should serve time for something that was agreed upon by two people," she said on the witness stand. "He already missed out on my first prom and teaching me how to drive."