Ironton man gets life sentence for rape

Published 10:02 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Ironton man convicted of rape got a life sentence from the judge and forgiveness from his now 11-year-old victim.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper Wednesday sentenced Sonny Riffe, 59, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree rape conviction returned last week by a common pleas jury.

Before the sentencing, Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Jeff Smith read a short statement from the victim.

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“Sonny,” the statement said, “I think what you did was wrong. I was very, very sad and scared when you did that to me. But I am happy and glad I could tell someone and I am glad I could tell the truth also. Sonny, I will forgive you for what you did because God believes in forgiveness and I got saved so whatever God tells me to do, I will do it. I am sorry for telling on you but I didn’t want to get hurt anymore,” said the victim, who is now 11 years old but was nine at the time of the incidents for which Riffe was convicted.

Riffe also gave a statement before he was sentenced.

“I maintain my innocence, always have and always will,” he said. “I could have taken a plea bargain for this but I am not guilty. I was set up, framed. This is God’s honest truth and God knows it.”

Riffe repeated the claim made during the trial that his daughter, Debbie Carmon, persuaded the victim, her brother and another child to make false accusations against him. Riffe said he had never done anything to hurt children.

“I was a rascal in my time, don’t get me wrong. But I never hurt little children,” Riffe told Cooper.

Riffe said he would appeal the verdict and sentencing. Cooper appointed Warren Morford to handle that appeal.

Riffe’s wife, Carolyn, and two others attended the sentencing.

The victim told the jury that Riffe had sexually assaulted her on several occasions in late 2007.

Two boys also testified they heard her cries and one of the two boys said he had seen inappropriate encounters between Riffe and the girl on two occasions. Two medical exams showed that the child had been abused by someone. But Riffe contended it was someone else and never confessed to the crime — something his attorneys used to bolster his defense.

Riffe contended throughout the trial that Carmon was a mean person who lied about him and coerced the children to make the false allegations against him.