By Konstantine Fekos
The Meadville Tribune
A Michigan man sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in prison on sexual assault charges three years ago was denied a post-conviction appeal supposedly sought before the summer of 2011.
Ralph L. Yendell, 45, testified before Crawford County President Judge Anthony Vardaro Monday morning, claiming his defense counsel had led him to believe he lost his chance to continue filing an appeal after being denied by the Superior Court approximately two years ago.
Court records indicate Yendell’s prior defense representative, attorney J. Wesley Rowden, sent him a letter outlining his options for further appeals in June 2011, after which Yendell had approximately one month to either file an appeal with the Supreme court, file through the Post-Conviction Criminal Relief Act (PCRA) or exit the appeals process.
Rowden testified that Yendell had no contact with him after the time period expired and thus concluded Yendell was not appealing to a higher court. Rowden later withdrew from representation.
“From what I understood, everything was final after 30 days,” said Yendell, claiming Rowden made comments about the Supreme Court most likely rejecting his case dissuaded him from appealing. “My thought (was that) it was a fruitless effort.”
Yendell never signed documentation waiving his right to appeal, according to court records, but alternatively neglected to file any requests for an extension to appeal with the Supreme Court.
Upon Rowden’s withdrawal, Yendell reportedly proceeded with filing the PCRA and claimed his defense counselor failed to advise him properly.
Vardaro ruled against Yendell’s request for an appeal on the grounds that Rowden’s documentation was clear in its wording.
“Rowden’s letter is very clear,” said Vardaro, adding he would review Yendell’s motion to review withdrawal of counsel, but found “no merit” in the appeals request.
Yendell was convicted in January 2010 for giving a 15-year-old girl alcohol and marijuana before having sex with her at Col. Crawford Park in Woodcock Township in July 2008. Col. Crawford Park has since been renamed Woodcock Lake Park.
He was sentenced to state prison for a minimum of 17 years and maximum of 35 years on charges of aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, corruption of minors, indecent assault on a person under age 16, unlawful contact with a minor and two other counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. He was reportedly required to register as a sexual predator under Megan’s Law.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.