Local man sentenced to eight years in prison


A Bartholomew County man who admits striking a male relative in the head with a croquet mallet on Tuesday received an eight-year-prison term – the maximum permitted in a plea agreement accepted by the court.

Robert L. Riley, 42, of 11321 W. Baker Hollow Road, admits that he sneaked up behind next-door neighbor William Barger and struck him with sufficient force that the victim required emergency care at Columbus Regional Hospital.

The defendant was sentenced in Bartholomew Superior Court 1 to three years for unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon – and five years for battery resulting in serious bodily injury. He was also placed under a no contact order concerning Barger and his family for the duration of the sentence.

Testifying on his own behalf Tuesday, Riley said Barger had upset him by striking the back of his head with his hand in the days just prior to the assault. But Barger told deputies the attack was the result of the defendant’s inaccurate assumptions that Barger was hiding Riley’s ex-girlfriend, that Barger was having intimate relations with Riley’s ex-girlfriend, and had stolen the defendant’s dog, a probable cause affidavit states.

Riley’s criminal history indicates difficulty in controlling his anger whenever somebody gets on his wrong side, Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge James Worton said at the sentencing.

“But this wasn’t like a heat of passion thing,” Worton said. “This was thought out. You had the opportunity to not do it, but you chose to do it anyway. And this is your second go-around with a battery.”

Worton is referring to a 2007 arrest where Riley was judged a serious violent felon. He stalked a 74-year-old man from a local Walmart store to the victim’s home, assaulted the man and attempted to take a newly-purchased television.

Barger, who said he lost consciousness for a short time, told deputies that when he came around, he saw Riley standing over him as if he was going to hit him again. But when a witness screamed, Riley fled Barger’s property and returned to his own residence.

He also pleaded guilty in 2011 to theft after a burglary charge was dropped by the state, court records state.

Riley had been confined to a state prison from 2011 to 2019 on a variety of consecutive charges, he told the judge.

In listing his reasons for giving Riley the longest possible sentence allowed, Worton cited the defendant’s history of criminal violence, which he described as a very serious aggravator. While Riley had once been given a 14-year suspended prison sentence, the probation was revoked due to rule violations, Worton said.

Worton didn’t feel Riley’s guilty plea was a significant mitigating factor.

“The deal put an eight year cap on the sentence,” Worton told the defendant. “Otherwise, you would have been facing up to 18 years in prison. I feel pretty comfortable telling you that your criminal history would have warranted that sentence.”

In the end, Worton said he believes that suspending any time in the eight year sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the offense.

While Riley is receiving credit for 499 days for time served, he has also been ordered to pay $189 in court costs.