Jesse Risha

In November 2003, Jesse Risha was arrested on federal arson charges for hiring Frank Caito to set fire in 1998 to a video equipment store in Clairton, Pennsylvania, so Risha could collect insurance.  Caito told police about the attempted arson in 2002, after he turned himself in for arrest on a warrant for unrelated state firearms charges.  Caito’s firearms prosecution was postponed because of his cooperation in Risha’s federal case.  Caito received immunity in the arson case, and, eventually, favorable treatment in his state firearms case. 
 
Risha’s first trial ended in a hung jury, but at his second trial, in July 2004, the jury convicted Risha of attempted arson.  Caito testified at trial that he had been given immunity in the arson case in exchange for his testimony, but both he and the prosecutor denied that Caito would receive any benefit in his unrelated state case. After conviction, but before sentencing, Risha learned that, contrary to his testimony, Caito did in fact receive leniency in his state firearms case in exchange for his testimony against Risha.  Risha moved for a new trial, and the United States District Court ordered a hearing on his claim, and in September 2006 ordered a new trial. Two months later, the prosecution dismissed the charges.
 
- Stephanie Denzel

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State:Fed-PA
County:
Most Serious Crime:Attempt, Violent
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1998
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2006
Sentence:Not sentenced
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age:47
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No