The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

May 15, 2014

Former Concord University athletes enter plea

Ex-football players plead guilty to conspiracy

PRINCETON — Two former Concord University football players who were arrested in November 2013 and charged with robbery and other offenses pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy.

Riyahd A. Richardson, 22, of Athens, and Russell Bailey, 22, of Beckley, appeared together for a plea hearing before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope. Both men and a third defendant, Miricco R. Sanders, 22, then of Wllford, N.C., were arrested in November 2013 after a robbery was reported in Athens near the campus. All three men were later indicted on charges of robbery first degree, unlawful assault, wanton endangerment, and conspiracy.

Swope explained to Richardson and Bailey that they had rights including the right to appeal a conviction, the right to testify on their own behalf, and to call witnesses if they chose to have a trial by jury.

Both Richardson and Bailey pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Sentencing for both men was scheduled for July 22. At that time, Swope will determine whether to accept the pleas and proceed with sentencing if he accepts them. Swope ordered a presentencing report for both men.

Richardson and Bailey remain free on bond. The remaining charges would not be dropped until the plea is accepted, said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis. They are facing one to five years in prison.

McGinnis said the state would have shown that Richardson, Bailey and Sanders went to an Athens home to purchase marijuana. A firearm belonging to the home’s owner was produced. The homeowner, who was beaten by the three men, said they left with the gun and approximately $300.

A separate hearing was conducted afterward for Sanders, another former Concord football player, who had failed to appear for a hearing Monday before Swope. His attorney, Elizabeth French of the Mercer County Public Defender’s Office, had a motion to withdraw from the case. Sanders came to court on his own Wednesday. A bench warrant had been issued when he failed to appear, McGinnis said.

“Mr. Sanders, where were you?” Swope asked.

“I’ve been working, sir,” Sanders replied.

“You know you’re in big trouble,” Swope told him, pointing out a courtroom bench. “Have a seat while I decide whether you go home or whether you stay here.”

McGinnis said the state had some concerns and added he was surprised to see Sanders in court Wednesday. Swope informed Sanders that the court “does not work around work schedules.” Sanders said he had a job in which he was learning to make tools.

“Who do you work for, the CIA?” Swope asked. “This is ridiculous.”

While being questioned by the court, Sanders said he slept in a car and did not have any family or friends he could stay with. Swope instructed Sander’s attorneys to find him temporary accommodations until they could speak with him. Sanders, who is free on bond, could then return to his job in South Carolina.

Swope imposed restrictions. He instructed Sanders to give his attorneys every possible telephone number and address where he could be contacted immediately.

“They better be able to get you 24/7,” Swope told Sanders.

Sanders was told he could be placed in the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver if he fails to cooperate with his attorneys and the court. A new hearing was scheduled for June 17.

McGinnis said later that Sanders is also considering a plea agreement.

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