A sentence of probation for du Pont heir Robert Richards IV on a child rape conviction has sparked a war of words between political leaders in Delaware over Attorney General Beau Biden's role in the case.

In 2008, Richards was sentenced to probation on charges of child rape by Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden after a negotiated plea with prosecutors in Attorney General Beau Biden's office. That sentence has drawn national attention and outrage from victims rights groups who say the sentence was much too lenient.

Biden defended the plea deal and the sentence in an letter to the editor of the Wilmington News Journal earlier this week.

The political barb was fired by John Fluharty, who is executive director of the Delaware Republican Party. In a statement posted online Friday morning, Fluharty questions Biden's focus around the time of the sentencing."At the same time the Biden family was focused on Joe Biden's run for the White House, and his posturing to be selected as the Democrat's Vice Presidential nominee in 2008," Fluharty said.

Fluharty asks if Biden was more focused on a "national political agenda" than on running the Attorney General's office. "Why was the Attorney General not aware of this high profile case which resulted in his office striking a plea deal? Was this just gross incompetence on his part?"

John Daniello, chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party, was quick to issue a reply via press release Friday afternoon. "I’d like to remind them that during the fall of 2008, instead of campaigning for his father and soon-to-be President Obama, Beau was pre-deployed to Texas en route to the war in Iraq." Daneillo calls the GOP attack baseless. 

Motivated by November 

The Attorney General's office is up for grabs this November, which could explain the war of words between the party leaders in early April. Biden was first elected Attorney General in a narrow win over Ferris Wharton in 2006. That year, Biden garnered more than 52 percent of the vote.

Four years later, with one term and a tour of duty in Iraq under his belt, Biden won 79 percent of the vote in 2010. No Republican candidate stepped forward to challenge the son of the sitting Vice President that year.

While the GOP is largely outnumbered in voter registration, the party is working to at least field candidates in all state wide races this November. That's something Daniello says they should focus on instead of trying to score political points with the sentencing controversy. "Delaware Republican Party leadership would better serve their party by focusing on the recruitment, selection, and training of candidates for the November elections," Daniello said.