By John Seewer/The Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio — A Scotsman released from prison four years ago after spending two decades on Ohio’s death row has agreed to a plea deal over accusations that he threatened a judge who prosecuted his original case.
Ken Richey agreed to enter a guilty plea to a felony charge next week and will face no more than three years in prison, Todd Schroeder, an assistant prosecutor in Putnam County, said Wednesday.
Richey pleaded not guilty in January to charges that he left a threatening telephone message for the judge in the northwest Ohio county. Authorities said he called the courthouse on New Year’s Eve from his new home in Tupelo, warning the judge that he was coming to get him.
He is slated to change his plea next week. Schreoder didn’t reveal the charge because he said it’s possible a change could be made. A message seeking comment was left with Richey’s attorney.
Richey was on death row for 21 years after being convicted of setting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl in 1986. He denied any involvement and became well-known in Britain, where there is no death penalty, as he fought for his release. Among his supporters were several members of the British Parliament and Pope John Paul II.
Following years of appeals, a federal court determined his lawyers mishandled the case, and his conviction was overturned. County prosecutors initially planned to retry him, but Richey was released in 2008 under a deal that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter. He also was ordered to stay away from the northwest Ohio county and anyone involved in the case.
Richey, though, carried a lifetime of bitterness over his conviction and couldn’t stay out of trouble once outside of prison.
He returned to Scotland in 2008, but just over a year later, he was accused of breaking into an apartment and beating a man with a metal pipe. Those charges were later dropped when a witness failed to back the man’s story.
Richey returned to the U.S. and was arrested in Minnesota in 2010. He was charged with assault after his 24-year-old son told police his father grew angry, smacked him with a baseball bat and threatened to kill him after the pair had been wrestling. Prosecutors in Ohio said Richey was still wanted on a warrant out of Minnesota.