by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – A unanimous decision by the state Supreme Court of Appeals has affirmed Kanawha Circuit Court action in a petition by former state legislator Clyde Richey, 79.
Ritchie, at the time a Monongalia County delegate, was convicted in 1979 of sexually assaulting a male legislative page. The page, identified as “D.B.” in court filings, was 14 at the time.
A Kanawha County jury convicted Richey of the assault for anally penetrating D.B. in a hotel room in Charleston while he was in town serving as a page. The boy reported the assault to his mother when he returned home two days later. His mother took him to West Virginia University Hospital where a doctor ordered testing. Richey maintained he was not informed, at the time of the trial, that the tests showed no scientific evidence of sexual activity.
Nevertheless, the trial continued, with the boy’s word against Richey’s being the chief evidence. Several pairs of the lad’s undershorts were introduced as evidence, although none were physically linked to the delegate.
Richey was sentenced to five years of probation and registered as a sex offender. He appealed the conviction but it was affirmed. Richey has filed multiple actions attempting to overturn the verdict. On one occasion, the supreme court denied Richey’s request to permit DNA samples on three pairs of the boy’s underwear.
In 2005, the former delegate filed a civil suit in Monongalia County seeking to compel WVU Hospital to produce the original testing results. “The magistrate court inexplicably ruled in his favor,” the justices wrote in their memorandum decision.
“At some point,” the justices wrote, “he (Richey) obtained independent genetic testing from a Nevada-based laboratory of slide R1 (the original testing slide) using comparison material he collected himself.” Although published reports have quoted Richey as saying results of testing of the slide indicated he could not have been involved, the court said evidence appeared to confirm that Richey “’could not be excluded as a contributor’ to genetic material on the slide.”
Eight years later, the court said, Richey sought a second independent comparison by the same provider using new genetic material collected by a nurse. He said this analysis showed he was not involved and filed a motion in Kanawha court to vacate his conviction and order a new trial.
Richey told media outlets before the ruling that he felt he “finally had the evidence” to be exonerated. He told reporters he is in ill health and has sought vindication ever since the allegations arose.
Richey said he learned that the slide still existed in 2005. He did not immediately pursue the matter, he said, because his wife was in ill health at the time and “convinced me that I would never get my conviction overturned.” When his spouse passed away last year, the former delegate decided to pursue the matter.
Richey told reporters, before his appeal, that he felt on the verge of absolving himself of the crime.
Kanawha court denied Richey’s appeal, noting a concern regarding the chain of custody involving the slide. “But the court did not rest its denial on those concerns,” the court wrote. Rather, it ruled that the slide would not have been admissible because evidence rules prohibit evidence suggesting “other sexual activity by the victim.” It further ruled that Richey had “not been diligent in pursuing this claim.”