January 25, 2012 12:42:00 PM
By JOHN SEEWER
OTTAWA, Ohio -- A Scotsman released from an American prison after spending two decades on Ohio's death row pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he threatened a judge who prosecuted his original case.
Ken Richey appeared in a northwest Ohio court on charges of retaliation and violating a civil protection order. Richey sat in a chair with his hands clasped in his lap and didn't speak during the hearing.
Authorities say the 47-year-old Richey left a threatening phone message on New Year's Eve at the courthouse in Ottawa, where he was sentenced nearly 25 years ago to death.
The Putnam County prosecutor said the message to Judge Randall Basinger included, "I'm coming to get you." Richey didn't identify himself but investigators were able to track the call to him, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said sentencing guidelines could prompt a sentence ranging from no time to six years in prison if Richey is convicted.
He spent 21 years on death row after being convicted of setting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl in 1986 at an 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.
A federal court determined his lawyers mishandled the case and overturned his death sentence. County prosecutors initially planned to retry him, but Richey was released four years ago under a deal that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter in exchange for his freedom.
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.
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 had been living in Tupelo, Miss., and was arrested there last week on the Ohio charges.
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