Appeal denied for convicted child rapist

Published 10:18 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of an Ironton area man found guilty earlier this year of raping a then 9 year-old girl at his residence in late 2007.

Sonny Riffe, 967 County Road 22, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for that crime.

In his appeal, Riffe contended the trial court erred when it permitted the state to amend the indictment because he was then tried for crimes that were not presented to the grand jury.

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In the original indictment, authorities alleged the incident for which Riffe was tried took place on or about Sept. 27, 2007.

But later the indictment was amended to show the incident occurred sometime between Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, 2007.

Riffe maintained in his appeal that the amended indictment “improperly charged [him] with new incidents and offenses never contemplated by the grand jury in the original indictment.”

Because the amendment to the indictment changed neither the name of the victim nor the type of the crime, the appeals court disagreed.

Riffe also contended that the evidence introduced at trial is insufficient to support his conviction.

The appellate judges disagreed with that claim as well.

“Because after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, we find that any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime of rape proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Presiding Judge Roger Kline wrote in his ruling.

Riffe further claimed he was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel. The appeals court rejected that claim also.

Finally, Riffe contended that the cumulative errors of the lower court rendered his trial unfair and unconstitutional.

“Because Riffe has failed to show multiple errors, we disagree,” Kline wrote.

The nine-year-old girl told first family members and then authorities Riffe had assaulted her at his home while his wife was away.

Other children testified they also heard and saw inappropriate activity between Riffe and the victim. But Riffe contended the children, including the victim, were coerced to fabricate the allegations against him.

The jury deliberated less than four hours before returning a guilty verdict.