YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A rally held outside the Mahoning County Court House in Youngstown this afternoon was in support of Chaz Bunch, who is eligible for parole after being sentenced to 49 years in prison for the rape and kidnapping of a YSU student in 2001.
Bunch was initially sentenced to 89 years in prison at the age of 16. However, in 2019, Judge Maureen Sweeney ruled the punishment was harsh and unconstitutional and overturned his sentence, re-sentencing him to 49 years with the eligibility of parole.
“The main reason why we’re here is because the DNA evidence excludes Chaz Bunch from this crime. He is only guilty of taking a ride from the people who actually committed this crime,” said Tahiyrah Asafo, who is with the National Freedom and Justice Movement.
Court records do state the semen sample found on the victim did not match Bunch’s DNA, but did in fact match Brandon Moore, one of three other men who were also convicted in connection to the incident.
Records also state the victim identified three of the men who took part that night, but could not positively identify Bunch from a lineup. Records state she later identified Bunch after seeing his photo in a newspaper article.
However, Jamar Callier who was convicted in the case as well, testified that Bunch took part in the rape and that Bunch wanted to kill the victim until Callier told him not to.
Bunch has maintained his innocence, and so has his supporters.
“A crime that he never committed,” said Onesty Bunch, Bunch’s daughter.
“My son been locked up for 20 years for something I do not believe he did,” said Roosevelt Bunch, Chaz’s father.
However, not everyone feels he should be released. Prosecutor Paul Gaines sent out this statement just weeks ago: “Throughout the years, Defendant Bunch has not shown any remorse for his crimes. Defendant Bunch continues to claim that he is innocent of the charges despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”
At the rally, Bunch’s supporters could be heard chanting, “Free Chaz Bunch, time’s been served.”
“Everyone has had an opportunity to tell their story, except for Chaz. The victim has told her story, the judge told the story, the prosecutor’s office told their story, but no one has spoken with Chaz,” Asafo said.
In a statement released by Prosecutor Gains, the victim stated: “Chaz Bunch wanted me dead, and by the grace of God in the final moments of the scariest, chaotic night of my life, Jamar Callier and Brandon Moore stopped him from pulling the trigger. Chaz’s gun was actually in my mouth when Jamar pushed him away.”
Bunch was scheduled for a parole hearing on November 22 of this year, but his daughter said that has been rescheduled to January of next year.
They say they will continue to fight for his release until then.