Photo Caption: Matt Kulchar in court during his trial.
A former Ohio University student, who is in prison for evidence tampering in connection with an alleged rape of which he was found innocent, has a court hearing later this month on whether he should be given early release.
In 2008 Matthew C. Kulchar, now 23, was charged with having restrained and raped a female OU student in a university residence hall room.
In November 2009, an Athens County jury acquitted him of kidnapping and rape charges, but found that he had tampered with evidence when he told his dormitory roommate to dispose of a pair of boxer shorts he had worn during the sexual encounter with the woman.
While in custody at the OU Police Department Kulchar sent his roommate a text message telling him to get rid of the underwear.
After the jury convicted Kulchar on the tampering charge, Athens County Common Pleas Judge Michael Ward sentenced him to three years in prison.
Kulchar appealed his conviction, and Ward allowed him to stay out of prison while the appeal was pending. Late last year, an appellate court denied the appeal, after which Kulchar had to begin his prison sentence.
On May 1, Kulchar's defense attorney, K. Robert Toy, filed a motion asking Ward to grant his client judicial release. Toy said in the motion that Kulchar is eligible for judicial release, as he has served more than 180 days of his sentence.
The motion did not go into any detail about why Kulchar might deserve to be let out; it merely states that such release "would be warranted" based on the criteria in state law.
The Athens County Prosecutor's office responded that it "adamantly opposes any early release" for Kulchar, because he "showed no remorse for his crimes, committed the worst form of the offense, and received an intermediate sentence," in other words, not the maximum prison term.
In a response filed May 3, Athens County assistant prosecutor Robert P. Driscoll asked Ward to deny Kulchar's request without holding a hearing.
Prosecutor Keller Blackburn noted Tuesday that "normally judicial release is something we agree to as part of a plea agreement." Kulchar, however, went to trial.
Blackburn said letting Kulchar out of prison early would be inappropriate because "he impeded a rape investigation by his actions."
On May 18, however, the judge filed a journal entry granting Kulchar a hearing on June 13.
Ward has indicated he will request a report from the warden of Noble Correctional Institution, where Kulchar is imprisoned, describing his conduct while behind bars, his participation in school, vocational training, work, treatment and other rehabilitative activities, as well as any disciplinary action taken against him.
During Kulchar's trial, his alleged victim claimed that Kulchar had coerced her into having sex against her will, and had caused her physical pain. Kulchar admitted to the sex, and claimed it was consensual but "rough."
In his appeal of Kulchar's conviction, Toy argued that Kulchar should never have been found guilty of tampering with evidence, because the boxer shorts he instructed his roommate to get rid of didn't qualify as evidence.
The attorney noted that investigators admitted at trial that they had no need to test any clothing or bedding for semen, because both Kulchar and the woman acknowledged that they had had sex.
"The state of Ohio was trying to enhance a weak case of rape and kidnapping by 'piling on' the charge of tampering with evidence," Toy argued in the appeal. "At no time would his underwear or discovery of (Kulchar's} underwear (have) led to anything significant in this matter."
In a response to the appeal, the prosecutor's office argued that if police had had access to the underwear, it might have been a useful piece of evidence for the state.