‘Sociopathic felon’ Kenny Richey gets 3 years after threat to US judge

Kenny Richey was freed after spending 21 years on Death Row. Picture: TSPL
Kenny Richey was freed after spending 21 years on Death Row. Picture: TSPL
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KENNY Richey, the Scot who was released from prison after spending two decades on Death Row in the United States, is back behind bars.

The 47-year-old was sentenced yesterday to three years in jail for threatening a lawyer – now a judge – who prosecuted his original case.

Richey pleaded guilty last month to a felony retaliation charge at a court in Ohio.

He said he had been drinking heavily before he left a threatening phone message, sent from his Mississippi home on New Year’s Eve last year.

Eight of Edinburgh-born Richey’s friends and family watched as visiting judge Dale Crawford handed down the sentence yesterday.

Richey was on Death Row for 21 years after being convicted of starting a fire that killed a two-year-old girl in 1986.

However, a US court determined his lawyers had mishandled the case, and he was set free in 2008 under a plea deal.

Investigators said Richey had been at his home when he placed a call to Putnam County Clerk of Court office, warning that he was in Ohio and was coming to get judge Randall Basinger.

Mr Basinger was an assistant county prosecutor in 1986 when Richey was charged with starting the fire that killed the toddler.

Yesterday, the Scot was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and wearing green and grey prison stripes.

He said his threat against Mr Basinger had been a drunken prank, and he apologised.

The judge made a victim statement in which he branded Richey a threat to the public who needed to be locked up for the maximum time possible.

He said: “The defendant is a sociopathic felon who has made repeated death threats to me and others in attempts to avoid prosecution.”

In the 11-second answering machine message he left on New Year’s Eve, Richey told Mr Basinger “I’m coming to get you” .

He later claimed it was simply a joke that had gone wrong – and even blamed police for winding him up.

Richey said two detectives who handled his original case had taunted him following his release from prison in 2008.

He claimed they sent him a greetings card ahead of another court case and teased him about heading back to jail.

Richey – who now has US citizenship – was put on Death Row after being found guilty of starting the fire at an Ohio flat that killed two-year-old Cynthia Collins.

He denied any involvement in the fire and became well-known in Britain as he fought for his release. Among his supporters were several MPs and the late pope John Paul II.

Following years of appeals, a federal court determined that his lawyers had mishandled the case, and his conviction was overturned. Richey was released in 2008 under a deal that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter.

He was ordered to stay away from anyone involved in the case, including Mr Basinger.

The Scot had previously voiced his dislike for Mr Basinger, saying he had cost him 22 years of his life.

He returned to Scotland in 2008 and later went back to the US, where he was arrested in Minnesota in 2010 and charged with assaulting his 24-year-old son. The charge was dropped after he was sent back to Ohio on the charge of threatening the judge.