Kenneth Richey, with his attorney, Gregory Meyers, says the New Year’s Eve telephone call was a drunken prank.
OTTAWA, Ohio -- Scotland native Kenneth Richey, a former Ohio death row inmate who spent 21 years in prison on a conviction for setting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl, was sent back to prison on Monday for an additional three years on a charge unrelated to the fire.
Before his sentence on one felony count of retaliation for phoning in a threat to Putnam County Common Pleas Judge Randall Basinger, Richey, 47, now of Tupelo, Miss., said it was just a drunken prank.
He pleaded guilty to the charge last month.
Judge Basinger made a victim statement in which he called Richey a threat to the public who needs to be incarcerated to the maximum sentence.
"The defendant is a sociopathic felon who has made repeated death threats to me and others in attempts to avoid prosecution, to retaliate, and to intimidate while awaiting trial on various felonies," the judge said.
"The threats against me include nine death threats over a period of 25 years," he said. "Threats occurred while awaiting trial, after conviction, and while on bond fleeing prosecution from other charged crimes against various family members and law enforcement officers."
Authorities said he left a message stating: "I am in Ohio. I'm coming to get you," for Judge Basinger on the clerk of court's answering machine on New Year's Eve.
Judge Randall Basinger makes a victim impact statement in which he calls Kenneth Richey 'a sociopathic felon who has made repeated death threats to me and others in attempts to avoid prosecution, to retaliate, and to intimidate … '
He was arrested in Mississippi and was brought back to Putnam County.
Richey, who sat in the courtroom in handcuffs while wearing green and gray prison stripes, listened quietly as Judge Basinger read his statement.
When it was his turn to speak before sentencing, Richey denied the judge's claim that he is a violent sociopath and apologized for the telephone call.
He called Judge Basinger's comments "a bunch of crap" and went on to say the judge was taking facts out of context.
"As far as the phone call, I apologize for that. I was in the wrong. I shouldn't have done it," he said. "It was just a prank. I was drunk but I still shouldn't have done it. I take full responsibility."
Judge Basinger was an assistant county prosecutor in 1986 when Richey was charged with setting a fire that killed 2-year-old Cynthia Collins in Columbus Grove, Ohio. 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.
The 2008 protection order was to remain in effect for five years "or until Jan. 7, 2013" unless modified or dismissed by the court.
Visiting Judge Dale Crawford, who handed down the three-year sentence Monday in a courtroom filled with friends and family of Richey, showed no mercy and imposed the maximum amount of prison time. Judge Crawford said Richey's claim that the telephone call was a drunken prank was not supported by the record.
As part of a deal in exchange for Richey's guilty plea, the prosecution dropped a charge of violating a protection order. Also under the deal, that protection order was extended by five years.
Richey's brother Steve Richey of Cloverdale, Ohio, and Richey's girlfriend, Karen Charves of Tupelo, were outraged that Judge Crawford imposed the three-year sentence.
"They falsely accused him 26 years ago for a crime he didn't commit," Steve Richey said after the sentencing. "He made a mistake with the phone call and he knows that he screwed up."
Ms. Charves described Richey as a sweet man who is called "papa" by her 5-year-old daughter.
"We are not the perfect couple, every couple has their days, but we have something more than others. We have open communication, we forgive each other, and we move on, and we have unconditional love," she said. "He has been the most wonderful man I ever met so I don't know who they are taking about."
Ms. Charves said they met through Facebook about a year ago and lived together in Tupelo for nine months before Richey's arrest.
She promised to wait for him and that they would be married the day he is released from prison.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171.