LISBON - An East Liverpool man accused of having sexual relations with an underage girl in his household was sentenced by Judge Scott Washam in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court to five years in prison on Friday, despite the victim changing her story.
Ricky E. Wright, 34, Ravine Street, East Liverpool, pleaded guilty in late October to sexual battery, a third-degree felony, after the initial rape charge was dismissed when the girl, who was 17-years-old at the time of the sexual encounter, changed her story.
Tina Dillworth, criminal investigator for the prosecutor's office, testified at Friday's sentencing hearing that she learned the now-18-year-old woman was considering changing her story and went to East Liverpool looking for her shortly before Wright was scheduled to go to trial in October.
Living with a sister just behind the home where Wright and the girl's mother were living, the girl reportedly at first agreed to speak with Dillworth. But after her mother arrived while they were getting ready to talk, the girl said she could not speak with her and would not even look at Dillworth.
Dillworth testified that from the beginning of the investigation, the girl's mother sided with Wright and would not support her daughter.
The victim in the case also testified, stating her boyfriend at the time, a man named Joseph, forced her to say these things happened. She claimed they set Wright up and her boyfriend then was going to call the police.
"I came on to him," she testified. "It was all consensual."
Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol questioned a Facebook conversation between the girl and her boyfriend where she had indicated Wright was trying to have sex with her again.
"Back in October you indicated that this had happened on other occasions," McNicol told the girl, noting at one point she claimed these things had occurred since she was about eight years old.
Defense attorney Charley Kidder also questioned the girl, asking her about statements she made to him in July about her boyfriend, Joseph, threatening to beat her up. He also asked her about the pressure she was under, whether it came from Wright or her family. The girl replied "no" to both, adding the pressure came from what she had said had happened to her.
"How did you know he would have sex with you," McNicol again challenged her story that she was setting Wright up because Joseph told her to. "You thought maybe he'll have sex with me, so I'll try?" McNicol questioned. The girl only cried in response.
Washam asked the girl why her boyfriend would want to set up Wright. She said it was to get Wright out of the house and in jail so she could go to work for Joseph. She also said Joseph tried to keep her away from her family so she would have no contact with them.
The girl said she did not expect things to happen like they did and she felt guilty.
"I lied about something very big," she said, but did admit to having sexual contact with him.
For his part, Wright said he is schitzophrenic and was off his medication at the time this happened. He pointed out he knows it was wrong and nothing like it would ever happen again.
"I don't know why this happened, but I've learned from what happened," Wright said.
Wright will also be required to register as a Tier III sexual offender for the remainder of his life.