Councilman Bunch completes pre-trial diversion on public indecency; dismissal of charge expected

A Columbus city councilman who agreed to a pre-trial diversion agreement on a misdemeanor public indecency charge has completed requirements and could have the charge dismissed within the next week.

A six-month pre-trial diversion agreement for Dascal Bunch, 62, who lives on the east side and represents District 1, ended Dec. 29, Bartholomew Superior Court 2 court records state. The agreement between Bunch and the prosecution was signed June 29.

The case, which was being handled by special prosecutor Brian Belding of Jennings County, called for the prosecutor to withhold prosecution during the six months of the agreement and to dismiss the charge if Bunch successfully completed the terms set by the prosecution.

The terms included that Bunch could not commit any criminal offense or infraction, payment of a $333 diversion program user fee and that he complete a mental health assessment by a licensed mental health care provider.

In a Thursday telephone interview, Bunch said he had successfully completed all the requirements. Superior Court 2 officials said they expected paperwork from Belding’s office within the next week to 10 days.

Bunch said he agreed to enter the pre-trial diversion agreement as it was not an admission of guilt to anything and the charge would be expunged.

He was accused of exposing himself to a next-door neighbor who was looking out a window toward his Columbus home at about 7:20 a.m. Jan. 12, court documents state.

The statute under which Bunch was charged says a person commits public indecency when, in a place other than a public place, appears in a state of nudity with the intent to be seen by people other than those invited to be there or who live there, Belding said in an earlier interview.

Initially, the incident was investigated by the Columbus Police Department. But because Bunch is a city councilman, the department asked the Indiana State Police to investigate.

Superior Court 2 Judge Kathleen “Kitty” Tighe Coriden also recused herself from the case, and it was later assigned to Jennings Circuit Court Judge Jon W. Webster.

Bunch said there were two pretrial diversion offers made to him — the first in April and then the one he accepted, in June.

The first offer, which would have required Bunch to have a mental health evaluation and resign his position from the council, showed that the allegations made against him were politically motivated, he said in an earlier interview.

When Bunch rejected that offer and began lining up people for depositions in preparation for a jury trial, the second offer came without the resignation requirement, he said.

“I made sure that I am not admitting to anything,” Bunch said of the allegations in an interview in August. “I guarantee we would have won at trial.”

Bunch, a Republican, was elected to the Columbus City Council in 2011 and re-elected for a second term four years later.

About pretrial diversion

A pre-trial diversion agreement is between a prosecutor and defendant and allows the defendant to have a charge dismissed in exchange for completing conditions of a diversion program. If the defendant complies with the terms of the pre-trial diversion agreement, the prosecutor agrees to dismiss the case.

Most pre-trial diversion agreements are for six months to one year. Defendants commonly agree they will not commit any criminal offenses or infractions during the agreement time period and will notify the prosecutor of any changes in address, employment or contact information.

The defendant also pays a pre-trial diversion program user fee. If the terms of the agreement are completed successfully, the prosecutor agrees to dismiss the case against the defendant after the time period is completed.

Prosecutors consider criminal history, the nature of the crime and whether a defendant could benefit by mandated services offered through the diversion program when considering who qualifies for pre-trial diversion.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.