Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, May 29, 2003


Page 1


Court of Appeal Upholds Sexual Assault Conviction of Riverside Superior Court Judge’s Son


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the burglary and sexual assault convictions of a Riverside County man who was tried in San Bernardino County after all of Riverside’s judges recused themselves.

The law-of-the-case doctrine bars Elwood S. Rich’s claim that he was entitled to be tried in the county where the alleged crime occurred, Justice Barton Gaut wrote for Div. Two. The law of the case was established, Gaut said, when his panel denied Rich’s petition for a writ of mandate.

Rich was not tried by a Riverside judge, Gaut explained, because he is the son of a retired Riverside Superior Court judge. Elwood M. Rich retired from the bench in 1980, but has remained active in alternative dispute resolution and was hearing settlement conferences for the court when Elwood S. Rich was charged in 1999.

Rich was accused of having entered the victim’s home through a bedroom window late at night, accosted her in her bed, placed his hand over her mouth, and put a knife to her throat. She screamed, Gaut said, as he ordered her to be quiet, thus alerting her boyfriend, who came in from another room and subdued the defendant.

A preliminary hearing was held before a San Bernardino Superior Court judge, without objection, and another judge from that court, Michael Welch, was assigned by the chief justice to conduct the trial. Welch ordered the case tried in San Bernardino County, and Rich’s petition for writ of mandate or prohibition challenging that ruling was denied.

That denial forecloses Rich’s post-conviction claim that the venue was erroneous, Gaut said.

“Rich raised the very issue raised on this appeal in his petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition,” the justice explained. “In our prior opinion we concluded that Rich had waived any objection and consented to the San Bernardino County venue....”

The case is People v. Rich, E031387.


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