OTTAWA, Ohio -- Former Ohio death-row inmate Kenneth Richey is to plead guilty Friday to a charge related to threatening a Putnam County judge who was a prosecutor on the 1986 case that landed him on death row.
Richey, 47, of Tupelo, Miss., is expected to enter a guilty plea to an unspecified felony that could land him in prison for "no more than" three years, said Todd Schroeder, an assistant Putnam County prosecutor. Sentencing is set for May 7.
Richey was indicted in January by a Putnam County grand jury on charges of retaliation and violating a protection order. Authorities say he left a threatening message for Judge Randall Basinger on the clerk of court's answering machine on New Year's Eve. Both charges are third-degree felonies that carry a possible penalty of six months to three years in prison.
Mr. Schroeder said he did not want to release details of the proposed plea agreement with Richey. "Things can change," he said. "If Mr. Richey were to change his mind, I don't want to suggest to the public what he may have been willing to acknowledge."
Gregory Meyers, an attorney with the Ohio Public Defender's Office who is representing Richey, could not be reached for comment.
Richey was convicted in 1987 of setting a fire at a Columbus Grove, Ohio, apartment that killed 2-year-old Cynthia Collins. He was sentenced to death, but in 2008 -- after two decades on death row -- a federal appeals court overturned Richey's conviction because of problems with the arson evidence that led to his conviction.
The court ordered a new trial in Putnam County, but Richey pleaded no contest and was convicted of attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and breaking and entering. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, given credit for time served, and released.
As part of Richey's 2008 sentence, a civil protection order was imposed that prohibited him from contacting Judge Basinger and 20 other individuals associated with his case. Richey, who had been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder, had made repeated threats over the years, including a threat to "cut the throat" of Judge Basinger, who was an assistant county prosecutor when the case began in 1986.
In the most recent charges that brought him back to Putnam County, Richey allegedly left a message for Judge Basinger saying, "I am in Ohio. I'm coming to get you."
The 2008 protection order was to remain in effect for five years "or until Jan. 7, 2013" unless modified or dismissed by the court. Mr. Schroeder declined to say if he would ask for the protection order to be extended but said the order would "be included in our discussion on Friday."
Richey, a dual U.S. and Scottish citizen who returned for a time to his native Scotland in 2008, is being held in the Putnam County jail.
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