On Sunday, community members stood up for one of the three young men charged with assaulting a 79-year-old Yale professor.

Latoya Willis insists her son, Aymir Holland, does not deserve the 61 years he may face in prison. Holland, 17, is charged with five felonies, as are two other men involved in the Nov. 27 attack. During a meeting of the Citywide Youth Coalition at the main branch of the New Haven Free Public Library Aug. 14, Willis said her son did not assault the professor and that he merely watched in horror at the actions of the other two suspects. According to the New Haven Independent, local activists at the meeting swore to advocate for Holland.

“My son’s never even been suspended from school, and now he’s looking at 61 years,” the Independent reported Willis as saying at the meeting.

Police have said that the professor was walking home Nov. 27 when five young men punched, kicked and threw him to the ground. The assault occurred near the corner of Bradley Street and Whitney Avenue, a block away from the Yale School of Management. The professor later regained consciousness and found his backpack and wallet gone. Returning home to his wife, who called the police, the professor was then treated at the hospital for injuries including three broken ribs and a broken bone in his right knee.

According to the New Haven police arrest warrant affidavit of the incident, the professor was unable to name the number of attackers, while one of the other two alleged assailants told police that Holland did stomp on the professor. The other young man said he did not know if Holland had assaulted the professor, the Independent reported.

But Willis said at the meeting that on the day of the assault, her son was with a friend and several other young men he did not know well, and as events unfolded, Holland remained only a bystander.

While two of the men police say were involved in the assault fled the the scene, the three others — Holland, 18-year-old Kelton Gilbert Jr. and 19-year-old Lawrence Minor Jr. — were charged with first-degree assault, first-degree assault on an elderly person, first-degree robbery, second-degree larceny, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.

Holland is being represented by public defender Angelica Papastravros. He has spent the last seven months at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire. His next court date for a pre-trial hearing at the New Haven Superior Court is on Aug. 25. While he is scheduled to be tried as an adult due to the severe charges against him, his mother aims to have his case transferred to juvenile court, according to the Independent.

An online petition set up earlier this week by the Citywide Youth Coalition to move Holland’s case to juvenile court has garnered 375 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.