Robbery Witness Skips Trial Testimony for Game Show Appearance

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A man chose to appear on the Ohio Lottery's television game show rather than testify at a robbery trial, and prosecutors said they were forced to allow the suspect to plead guilty to lesser charges.

James Finch, 41, of Akron was supposed to be the key witness in the case against William Archibald, who faced felony aggravated robbery and kidnapping charges, authorities said.

Archibald, 23, was accused of threatening Finch with a knife in Akron on May 13 and then tying him up and stealing his 1995 Dodge Intrepid, money and credit cards, said Jon Sinn, Archibald's defense attorney.

Archibald was on trial July 31 when Finch opted to travel to Columbus to take a chance on winning $50,000 on the Ohio Lottery game show "Make Me Famous, Make Me Rich."

Prosecutors said they were forced to agree to a plea bargain with Archibald, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and driving with a suspended license. He received two years of probation. The felony charges were punishable by more than 20 years in prison.

"It never hurts to have Lady Luck on your side," Sinn said.

Finch, who won $1,366 on the show, said he was disappointed the judge wouldn't delay the trial to accommodate the television show's taping schedule.

"They put me in a spot where I either go on the game show or go to court," Finch said Tuesday. "How many times do you get a chance to go on TV to win money like that? It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and they kind of tied my hands in court."

He said he wishes the judge had given Archibald a stiffer sentence.

The men were friends and the case against Archibald was weak, Sinn said.

Prosecutors, who in the past have sought jail time and contempt of court charges against alleged crime victims who refuse to testify, said they won't pursue charges against Finch.

"We don't want to waste any more money or time," prosecutor Mary Ann Kovach said.