Hempfield man accused of threatening church leader asks for bond reduction | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Hempfield man accused of threatening church leader asks for bond reduction

Rich Cholodofsky
1345933_web1_Mark-Ray

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 His bail has been revoked in that case.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 .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.