Harris Co. man will spend 40 years in jail for kidnapping, - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Harris Co. man will spend 40 years in jail for kidnapping, assault, other charges

Dennis Riley (right) with defense attorney John Wilson Dennis Riley (right) with defense attorney John Wilson

Harris County resident Dennis Riley, 42, will spend 40 years in prison for crimes ranging from kidnapping to cocaine possession.  Authorities allege he is the mastermind of a robbery and prostitution scheme.

Harris County Sheriff, Mike Jolley, claims Riley repeatedly used women to lure men out of a Columbus bar to his home in Ellerslie.  Once there, the women would preoccupy the men behind closed doors while Riley searched their cars and clothes for money.

Part of the evidence the Sheriff collected were videos recorded by the defendant himself. Assistant District Attorney, Richard Mobley, believes it was used as blackmail against the robbery victims. Riley would threaten to post the secretly recorded tapes displaying sexual encounters on the Internet in the event the victims attempted to seek revenge or go to authorities. He also threatened the women with the videos if they ever tried to abandon their partnership and start a new life somewhere else.

A jury found him guilty of a variety of crimes, but Riley was acquitted of charges related to prostitution due to a technicality in the wording of the indictment.  

"Sometimes the money wasn't exchanged from the men to the women because they were being robbed. So unless money exchanges hands, you don't actually have prostitution, you have robbery or theft," said Jolley.

An unidentified female who says Riley kidnapped and choked her with a plastic bag told police she was tired of playing her part in the scheme. Riley threatened to release videos of her if she didn't resume a criminal role in his plans.

After a night where the pair discovered one of their robbery victims was only carrying $2, Riley insisted that they go back to Columbus and recruit another unsuspecting target.  That's when the woman said she had enough.

The prosecutors described how Riley refused to let the woman out of his truck and forcefully kept her inside as she attempted to escape at a gas station on Highway 27.

"She was begging for him to stop, gets her into the house, and as she described, he goes into the kitchen and gets a plastic bag, and tells her, you can take this one of two ways, the easy way or the hard way. She said that he had ropes, tape, and torture her or she could just lay there and take it. That's just this individual dominating and showing absolute control over her," said Mobley, "What he was wanting to do was not threaten her with death. He wanted to show her death. He wanted her to feel death coming over her, as her breath gets harder and harder to take in."

Once they returned to his house, the victim says Riley loaded a gun and placed it in front of her, offering her a chance to defend herself while he choked her.  She grabbed the gun but would not pull the trigger.  As the Mobley explained, Riley used this exercise to demonstrate that even armed with a gun, the woman was powerless to stop him and his plans.  Riley is also alleged to have boasted that sheriff's deputies will not arrest him because they are afraid of him. 

The victim did not heed Riley's warning and went to authorities with her story.  Riley was later arrested in a heavily armed raid of his Scott Road residence.  His defense attorney, John Wilson, said that aside from forcing deputies to kick down the door, Riley did not put up a fight.

In court, both sides presented their arguments for and against the maximum sentence of 70 years in jail. Mobley gave graphic testimony of mental and physical torture of the female victim who brought her complaints to police. Mobley wanted Riley to spend the full 70 years in prison.

The defense argued that 15 or 20 years is fair because Riley will never be eligible for parole and he is guaranteed to serve every year of the sentence.  Wilson said Riley would be too old by then to follow-up with acts of revenge after his release from jail.

Judge Frank Jordan handed down a sentence of 40 years plus probation at the Friday hearing.  Riley was found guilty by jury of kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm, and cocaine possession.  Prior to the sentencing, jurors expressed to Harris County Sheriff, Mike Jolley, they feared reprisal from Riley.

Riley has previous criminal convictions in Phenix City and Columbus.

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