Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Teen Sentenced to 141 Years Drops Appeal due to New Law

A new state law granting parole hearings for juveniles imprisoned for adult crimes has led a Youngstown man to drop his third appeal of a sentence originally set at 141 years.

Citing the passage of Senate Bill 256, which Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law Jan. 9, Brandon Moore and the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office jointly requested that the Ohio Supreme Court dismiss the appeal of his latest sentence of 50 years in prison. The Court dismissed the case Thursday.

In December 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered Moore to be resentenced, ruling unconstitutional his 112-year sentence for rape, kidnapping, and multiple other felonies, with eligibility for judicial release when he turns 92, because it was a “functional life sentence.” (See ‘Functional Life Sentences’ for Juvenile Nonhomicide Offenders Unconstitutional.)

The Court cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Graham v. Florida decision when ruling that life sentences without parole for juvenile nonhomicide offenders prohibit “term-of-years” prison sentences that exceed the juvenile offender’s life expectancy.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Graham declared that a life-without-parole sentence for a juvenile who did not commit homicide violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawmakers React to Court Decisions
S.B. 256 was introduced in the General Assembly in December 2019. In early 2020, proponents of the bill told state lawmakers the legislation attempted to address the Graham decision, the Ohio’s Supreme Court’s ruling in in Moore, and similar cases.

Retired Justice Paul Pfeifer, who wrote the lead opinion in the 2016 Moore decision, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and advocated for a change in state law.

Pfeifer, currently executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, explained that the Court in Moore could conclude that 112 years was too long, but it didn’t determine precisely how long it takes before an offender must be granted a “meaningful opportunity to seek parole.”

The new law makes a prisoner who was under age 18 at the time of the offense and is serving a sentence for a nonhomicide crime eligible for parole after serving 18 years in prison. The law grants parole eligibility to juveniles who are serving sentences for homicide, except if convicted of aggravated homicide, after serving 25 or 30 years in prison, depending on the nature of the offense.

Under a new Ohio Revised Code Section, R.C. 2967.132, the law requires the Ohio Parole Board to ensure the review process provides the prisoner a meaningful opportunity to obtain release. Under the law, the board also must now consider mitigating factors related to the nature of the youth’s age and living circumstances during the time, including that “age’s hallmark features, including intellectual capacity, immaturity, impetuosity, and a failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”

Moore Embarked on Criminal Rampage
In August 2001, Moore embarked on what the Court described as “a criminal rampage of escalating depravity.” He first robbed Jason Cosa and Christine Hammond at gunpoint in Cosa’s driveway and later encountered a 21-year-old Youngstown State University student identified by the Court as M.K.

Moore was attempting to rob M.K. at gunpoint when a porch light from the group home where M.K. worked came on. Moore ordered M.K. into her car, and drove her car to meet with another car driven by Andre Bundy, who was with Chaz Bunch and Jamar Callier. They proceeded to drive M.K. to a dead-end street where they robbed her. Moore, Bunch, and Callier repeatedly raped her. Moore stuck his gun in M.K.’s mouth, warning her that the group knew who she was, and threatened to harm her and her family if she told anyone what had happened.

M.K. memorized the other car’s license plate and drove immediately to a house where she was able to tell friends the license plate number. Police were eventually able to arrest all four involved in the attack.

Moore Convicted and Repeatedly Sentenced
Moore’s case was transferred from juvenile court to the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Moore, Bunch, and Bundy were tried together, and Moore was convicted of all 12 counts and 11 firearm specifications filed against him. The charges included three counts each of aggravated robbery, rape, and complicity to commit rape, and single counts of kidnapping, complicity to commit aggravated robbery, and aggravated menacing. The trial court judge stated that Moore couldn’t be rehabilitated and “it would be a waste of time and money and common sense to even give it a try.”

The trial court sentenced Moore to the maximum prison terms for the 12 counts and added the sentences for the 11 firearm specifications, with all to be served consecutively except for one count to run concurrently. The sentence totaled 141 years in prison.

The Seventh District Court of Appeals vacated his conviction for conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and the accompanying firearm specification, and reduced the number of other gun specifications from 10 to four. At resentencing, the trial court reduced his sentence to 112 years.

Moore’s attempts to appeal the new sentence were unsuccessful until the 2010 Graham decision. The Seventh District considered, but ultimately denied, Moore’s appeal based on Graham, but he was able to appeal that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. That led to the 2016 decision, which remanded the case to the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

At an April 2018 resentencing hearing, the trial court adjusted Moore’s sentence, reducing his total time to 50 years in prison, with the opportunity to request judicial release after 47 years.

Moore appealed that sentence as still being too long under Graham and the 2016 directive from the Ohio Supreme Court. The Seventh District affirmed the new sentence in September 2020 as state lawmakers were debating the merits of S.B. 256.

Moore Opts for Parole Process
The General Assembly passed S.B. 256 in the waning days of the past two-year legislative session. The House approved the bill on Dec.17, and the Senate concurred with the House’s changes the following day. The bill was sent to the governor on Dec. 30, 2020.

In the request to dismiss Moore’s appeal, the parties noted the new law “will provide Brandon a parole opportunity that was not a part of the sentence he appealed.” Moore was first incarcerated in state prison in October 2002. The dismissal request didn’t indicate whether Moore has met the time requirement to apply or if he has applied to the parole board for a hearing.