YOUNGSTOWN Teen pleads innocent in rape
Some black women are wondering about the county prosecutor's motivation.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- If found guilty in an adult court of kidnapping, rape and robbery, Chaz Bunch could remain in prison until he's 70, a juvenile court magistrate told the 16-year-old boy.
Magistrate Betsy Faunda explained to Bunch that the juvenile prosecutor has asked that his charges be transferred to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, where he would be considered an adult by a grand jury.
If found guilty in juvenile court, he'd spend the rest of his juvenile life locked up, Faunda said Thursday from the bench. She then asked the Willis Avenue teen-ager if he understood the consequences and how he wanted to plead.
After nodding that he understood everything the magistrate said, Bunch pleaded innocent to 12 felony charges.
What's on list: The charges, each of which carries a gun specification, are three counts of aggravated robbery, six counts of rape and one count each of kidnapping, conspiracy to aggravated robbery and aggravated menacing.
All but two aggravated robberies relate to a 21-year-old Boardman woman, who told police that she was gang-raped Aug. 21 on the South Side.
About gag order: Bunch's mother, Willie Mae Hockaday, had questioned the presence of a reporter in juvenile court, referring to a gag order requested by Prosecutor Paul J. Gains and issued a week ago by Juvenile Court Magistrate Donna McCollum. Faunda explained to Hockaday that the press had a right to be in court.
The gag order prohibits police, prosecutors and parties involved in the case from speaking about it. It does not inhibit the press from reporting on the case as it unfolds.
Judge Theresa Dellick is expected to have a hearing next week in juvenile court to consider the state's request to transfer to adult court the charges against Bunch and 16-year-old Brandon Moore.
Others charged: Moore, of Magnolia Avenue, is charged with kidnapping, rape and aggravated robbery related to the 21-year-old victim and two unrelated aggravated robbery charges.
Gains had two adults in the case -- Jamar Callier, 21, and Andre Bundy, 18 -- skip their scheduled preliminary hearing in municipal court. The charges against Callier and Bundy were presented directly to a grand jury, which indicted both men.
Callier is charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to aggravated robbery and two counts each of rape and aggravated robbery. Bundy is charged with conspiracy to aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated robbery.
Youngstown Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin Casey, assigned to the Crisis Intervention Unit, has said the attack was a crime of opportunity.
The two men and two boys had been out cruising and looking for people to rob when they came across the 21-year-old woman in a Detroit Avenue driveway, the detective said a few days after the crime.
Gains, meanwhile, has also requested that a common pleas judge issue a gag order and in it, the prosecutor has singled out Casey. Gains, citing the juvenile court gag order, declined to comment Thursday.
What callers said: The gag order has generated controversy in the black community, with callers to the Mike McNair radio talk show "Roundtable" on WGFT AM 1500 voicing support for Casey, who is black, and questioning Gains' motive.
The women callers accuse Gains of moving quickly to solve the case and asking for the gag orders because the victim is white and the suspects are black.
"We don't count in their mind," said one caller.
"I feel like rape is rape no matter who gets raped," said another caller, Pam Collins, a member of the Youngstown Coalition of Black Women. "There have been other rapes. I don't see why this has to be solved quicker."
What happened: Casey said two assistant county prosecutors showed up unannounced at her office the day after the crime and entered the room where the victim had been seated in preparation for a videotaped statement.
The prosecutors introduced themselves to the victim and then sat in the waiting room during the videotaping. Afterward, they talked to the woman again, Casey said.
"We had a lengthy discussion and I expressed how I felt about them jumping in before I had a chance to do my investigation," Casey said. She declined to say what explanation the prosecutors gave for being at her office.
"Why move so expeditiously on this crime? There's others, black-on-black. Why such a fast track to the grand jury?" Edna Pincham, director and consultant of the Pincham Initiative Resource Center, said Thursday.
"You almost come down to the common factor of race. Or is it his desire to have this as a showcase?"
Pincham said her "showcase" comment about the case was a reference to Gains' interest in running for state attorney general.
She said Gains' past practice hasn't been to move cases this fast and she'd like to hear his explanation for what she called an "erratic move."
"We need to have answers. Not just the African-American community, but the entire community should ask questions," Pincham said.
Barbara Franklin, a member of Sheridan Block Watch, who also called the radio show, told The Vindicator on Thursday that "it seems like political, like [Gains] wants name recognition. How many cases has he tried and won?"
Franklin said she would like to see everyone treated fairly, whether it's black-on-black, black-on-white, white-on-black or white-on-white crime. "We don't see that," she said.