Ex-Ohio death row inmate faces retaliation charges

January 19, 2012 - 2:45 PM
Death Penalty Overturned

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2008 file photo, Ken Richey arrives at Edinburgh airport, Edinburgh, Scotland. Richey, a British citizen who spent two decades on Ohio's death row before being released, has been accused of leaving a threatening phone message at the courthouse where he was sentenced to death nearly 25 years ago. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A Scotsman released from an American prison after spending two decades on Ohio's death row has been accused of leaving a threatening phone message at the courthouse where he was sentenced to death nearly 25 years ago.

Ken Richey was arrested Wednesday in Tupelo, Miss., where he now lives, after a grand jury in Ohio indicted him on charges of retaliation and violating a civil protection order.

Authorities in northwest Ohio's Putnam County said Richey left a threatening phone message at a county office on New Year's Eve. The message was directed at one person who considered it a threat, investigators said.

Officials wouldn't comment about the content of the message or say to whom the threat was directed.

Richey, 47, walked free in 2008 under a plea deal after a federal court overturned his conviction and death sentence because it determined his lawyers mishandled the case.

He spent 21 years on death row after being convicted of setting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl in 1986 at a Columbus Grove apartment complex. Prosecutors said he started the fire to get even with a former girlfriend who lived in the same building.

Richey denied any involvement. His new defense team contended that investigators mishandled evidence used to convict Richey and that experts used nonscientific methods to determine that gas or turpentine started the fire.

Following years of appeals, a federal court sided with Richey and tossed out the conviction. County prosecutors were planning to retry him until they reached an agreement that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter in exchange for his freedom.

Richey returned to Scotland but came back to the U.S. soon after. He has been in trouble with the law several times, including being accused of assaulting his son.

He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the latest charges.

Richey is fighting extradition to Ohio so officials will need a warrant from Gov. John Kasich to bring him back, Putnam County Sheriff Jim Beutler said. It's not clear how long that will take.

Richey's former attorney, Kenneth Parsigian, told The Lima News that he had not been aware of the charges.

His attempt to overturn his conviction generated limited interest in Ohio, but his name was a familiar one in Britain, where there is no death penalty. Before his release, he had drawn support from members of the British Parliament and Pope John Paul II.

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Information from: The Lima News, http://www.limanews.com