By J. STEVEN DILLON
An Akron-area attorney is seeking to reopen a now 20-year-old criminal case of a former Rawson man who is serving a lengthy prison term on charges of rape, kidnapping and attempted murder of a Findlay teenager.
Adam M. VanHo said he has been asked by Nathan R. Graham to review the case for possible errors that led to the convictions and a 55-year prison term that Graham received following his trial in November 2000.
VanHo, of Hudson, filed motions in Hancock County Common Pleas Court on Friday for a copy of the trial transcripts and to review evidence in Graham’s case.
VanHo said he has agreed to review the case without compensation from Graham, and indicated the review is based on recently discovered evidence that “may form the basis for a claim of actual innocence.”
The motions do not disclose the nature of the new evidence.
Allowing a review of the transcripts, VanHo said, would allow him to “eliminate the risk of frivolous or meritless motions.”
Judge Reg Routson has not yet ruled on the request but has scheduled a hearing for March 20.
VanHo, a former assistant prosecutor on the county and state levels, has handled a number of high-profile cases, and was part of a legal team that got a man released from prison in 2014 on a murder conviction after DNA evidence eliminated the man as the suspect. The man had been in prison for 20 years.
Graham was sentenced Nov. 22, 2000, on seven felony convictions and is currently being held in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.
The charges are related to a Feb. 13, 1999 incident in which he and five others were involved in an abduction, sexual assault, and attempted murder of a girl who was 13 at the time.
The incident began at a party at a Tiffin Avenue apartment, where witnesses testified that the victim was beaten because she was flirting with male partygoers.
The girl was bound, placed in a car trunk, and was first driven to a rural Rawson house where Graham lived and where she was forced to perform sex acts.
Later, trial testimony indicated that Graham and others took the girl to a wooded area south of Findlay and placed her in a drainage tile and partially covered the opening with rocks.
She was left there for hours, but Graham and his girlfriend eventually returned and removed her. She was not seriously injured.
The case made the local news for months as Graham and co-defendants were indicted, prosecuted and eventually convicted. Several accepted plea bargains in exchange for their testimony against Graham, whom prosecutors considered the ringleader.
All except Graham have been released from prison.
The victim did not testify at Graham’s trial, as prosecutors claimed she could not be located. Now in her 30s, she has moved from the area.
The case wound through the courts for several years on various motions and appeals, with Graham often representing himself, as he did at his trial.
He once successfully argued a resentencing claim, but was not returned to court for what was mostly a clerical correction to his original sentence.
According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website, Graham, who was 21 at the time of the crimes, is now 41.
He will not complete his sentence until he is 78.