Judge says the former prosecutor ‘inspired by pure evil’
Even after his family testified how they fear him, loathe him and have disowned him, Richard W. Hamlin, the former Sacramento prosecutor and defense attorney convicted of torturing his wife and abusing his children, shook his head in denial as he was sentenced Friday to life in prison.
“I’m numb inside. I started to become angry. I’m just really depressed,” said Hamlin’s 14-year-old son.
The boy told the judge that his 46-year-old father, who has been in custody for the past two years, is still a danger to the family.
“If he gets out, it will not be him sitting in that chair. It will be me,” the boy said, looking at his father with an icy stare.
Hamlin was convicted in January of torturing his wife by punching her, stabbing her with writing pens, cutting her with a sword and pistol-whipping her over a nine-month period beginning in June of 2003 and ending Feb. 28, 2004, with his arrest in El Dorado County.
In a bizarre scheme involving mind-control, satanic cults, child molestation and extortion, Hamlin turned his children against their mother telling them she was evil and that he had to beat the demons out of her.
One night in the family van after Hamlin pistol-whipped his wife with a derringer, their two boys pointed paint-ball pistols at their mother’s head, trial evidence showed.
Hamlin, who was a Sacramento County deputy district attorney for four years and well-known defense attorney for an additional 13 years, lived a lavish lifestyle before his arrest, rubbing shoulders with judges, politicians and U.S. attorneys.
He and his wife, Susan, herself a lawyer, lived in a million-dollar mansion in El Dorado Hills. Then the couple, who were often seen at expensive restaurants and popular midtown nightclubs, vanished from Sacramento’s night life. Hamlin began to miss his court appearances.
He declared bankruptcy in his $700,000-a-year law practice, and his home was in foreclosure when he concocted a plan to extort a fortune from his then 71-year-old Fresno father-in-law by threatening to sue him for molesting Susan Hamlin when she was a child, according to El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Vicki Ashworth.
Richard Hamlin, who has since surrendered his license to practice law, represented himself in the three-month-long trial. Hamlin argued that he was a victim of a plot hatched by his father-in-law, an agricultural researcher, whom Hamlin described as a leader of a satanic cult.
Hamlin would spend hours with his wife attempting to get her to talk about and chronicle her “repressed memories” of sexual abuse, the jury was told.
Defense witnesses testified that Susan Hamlin confessed her role in a murder plot in minute detail to relatives, friends and a family pastor and to sheriff’s detectives.
On Friday, Susan Hamlin, who has been giving interviews focusing on domestic violence since her former husband’s conviction, said she lied to others to survive.
“Victims of domestic violence don’t live to tell their story; they turn up dead — their voices forever silenced,” she said.
“I did not die. I did whatever I had to do to stay alive and save my (children). I am a survivor,” Susan Hamlin said in a halting voice as she read her prepared statement.
“What terrified me the most was the sword,” she said. “Rick waved the sword around wildly, lunged at me with the sword pointed at me, pinned me to the wall with the tip of the sword to my chest.”
Also speaking at the sentencing hearing was the Hamlins’ 11-year-old daughter, who described graphic details of the beatings.
“I remember one time when my father was in my room, I saw him drag my mom by her hair,” the girl said, avoiding eye contact with her father.
“I think my father should go to prison because he was such a bad parent,” she said.
The Hamlin’s 8-year-old daughter, who came to court with a doll tucked under her arm, walked up to the witness stand to testify accompanied by her mother. But when it came time to speak, she said she couldn’t. Her mother read her statement for her.
“My dad hurt us. Now I am still afraid to go to sleep because I’m afraid he is going to come back,” the girl wrote.
“He told us he was going to get rid of our mom and get us a new mom,” the girl’s letter said.
The victims’ impact statements lasted about 30 minutes. Most of the nearly four-hour sentencing hearing was devoted to Hamlin attempting to convince Judge Eddie T. Keller that he deserved a new trial or that the life term on the torture count amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Hamlin and his co-counsel, public defender Robert Banning, argued that the torture count shouldn’t stand because the jury acquitted Hamlin of about half of his 18 charges.
One of the jurors who convicted Hamlin of torture, who sat in the audience, wrote the judge earlier saying she thought life in prison was too harsh and that she felt pressured by other jurors during the nine days of deliberation.
In rejecting the defense requests, Keller said he “seriously questioned” the credibility of the juror who claimed that today she would not convict Hamlin of torture.
The judge said the punishment fit the crime because Hamlin’s domestic violence was “inspired by pure evil” and though he “inflicted the nightmare upon his four children,” Hamlin was neither remorseful nor contrite.
Hamlin will be eligible for parole in about seven years.
But their younger daughter said in her letter to the court she doesn’t want to see her father again.
“All I ever wanted was a daddy that loved me. I wanted two parents that loved me, but I only got one. Please don’t let my daddy come back,” she said.
Sep. 30, 2006
Romon Coronado, Bee Staff Writer