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Rice appeals 5-year term

January 24, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Convicted sex offender Thomas D. Rice has appealed his sentence, according to court officials in Roanoke, Va.

Rice, who managed the Blue Ridge Outlet Mall in Martinsburg and was an aide to former Gov. Gaston Caperton, filed his notice of appeal last week, according to a U.S. District Court clerk.

Rice's attorney, Randy Cargill, and prosecutors will file briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Rice pleaded guilty last Nov. 1 to traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in sexual relations with an individual under the age of 18.

Rice drove 190 miles from Martinsburg to Bedford County, Va., after arranging a meeting over the Internet with a sheriff's deputy posing as a 13-year-old boy. He was arrested Feb. 20 at a Bedford County elementary school where the two had arranged to meet.

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Rice's appeal contends the court should have used a sentencing guideline section that would have resulted in a shorter prison term.

In a pre-sentencing report, a probation officer recommended U.S. District Court Chief Judge Samuel G. Wilson use sentencing guidelines for statutory rape and sentence Rice to between 12 and 18 months in prison.

But Giorno argued that Rice's crime was closer to sexual abuse than to statutory rape.

Wilson said Jan. 13 that he decided to use the guidelines for sexual abuse, providing a range of 63 to 78 months in a federal penitentiary and eventually handed down the lower 63-month sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Giorno said Monday there is little case law on the matter.

"I think certainly this is a novel area of the law," he said. "I think it will withstand the scrutiny of appeal."

Giorno said it probably will be three or four months before briefs and other documents are filed with the appeals court.

Cargill could not be reached for comment.

When Rice is released from prison, he must register as a sex offender in whichever state he chooses to live.

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