Hempfield man accused of threatening church leader asks for bond reduction
A Hempfield man jailed on charges that he made threatening, racially explicit telephone calls to a Penn Township church wants a Westmoreland County judge to make it cheaper for him to be released from custody.
Mark Eugene Ray, 59, contends the $50,000 bail that is keeping him behind bars should be reduced to so he can to live with a friend in Irwin and receive needed outpatient mental health treatment.
“The crimes pending against this defendant are nonviolent in nature. Defendant has no recent history of violence and is not a threat to the community,” defense attorney Tim Dawson said in court documents filed Thursday.
Ray was charged with ethnic intimidation and related charges in two separate cases connected to threatening messages and racial slurs directed at the members and pastors at Living Word Congregational Church. He first was arrested in 2017 and was ordered to stop contacting the church. His bail has been revoked in that case.
In a separate case filed last month, police contend Ray left four new voicemails — two each May 14 and 15 — directed at the church’s pastor, who police said is black. Ray is white.
Police said Ray fled May 24 as they attempted to take him into custody and was eventually captured 10 days later hiding in a coal cellar at a friend’s home in East Pittsburgh. He was charged earlier this week with flight to avoid apprehension.
Dawson said Ray is competent to stand trial and that a mental health evaluation determined he needs treatment that he cannot receive while in jail.
Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway said a hearing will be held in about a month on Ray’s bond modification request.
“His impulsivity and lack of restrain in uttering derogatory language during phone calls to a church voicemail has landed him in prison. He is aware of his charges and is capable of assisting legal counsel,” Dawson wrote.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .