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Father pleads guilty is ‘vigilante justice’ assault

A former Carbon County resident who pistol-whipped a man he said he caught sexually assaulting his children entered a guilty plea in Carbon County court on Thursday afternoon and was immediately sentenced to a state prison term.

William Morales, 41, who now lists is address as Cumbola, Schuylkill County, pleaded to one count of aggravated assault, as a felony 2, in exchange for felony counts of possession of a prohibitive offensive weapon and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and misdemeanor charges of simple assault, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment dropped.

He was immediately sentenced by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II to serve 18 to 36 months in a state correctional institution followed by two years of state probation.

The sentence is within state sentencing guidelines, but Assistant District Attorney Brian Gazo said the agreement was reached because of the circumstances of the case.

Case history

Nesquehoning police were called to Morales’ home for an assault on Aug. 7, 2019.

Mark Mead, 30, told police he was being held at gunpoint by Morales for two hours and that he was assaulted several times by being pistol-whipped, kicked in the stomach and violated with the handle of a mop.

Morales told police that the reason for the incident was because he had found Mead sexually assaulting his 1-year-old and 5-year-old while he was helping the family move.

The affidavit of probable cause states that Morales had asked Mead for his help moving and that he had left to carry out items. When he returned, Morales said he found Mead with his 1-year-old in a compromising situation and subdued Mead. The 5-year-old told his parents that Mead also made him touch him.

Police noted that Mead had multiple lumps and swelling on his head and contusions and abrasions, as well as pain in his abdomen.

Attorney Jonathan L. Luff Jr., of Philadelphia, represented Morales. He took the case he previously said, because he could not understand why Morales was charged in the first place. Attorney David Strenfel said he and Luff took the case for free.

In an interview with the Times News, Strenfel said, “I personally believe it’s an injustice.”

Luff said after reading about the case, he was confused. He did not know why Morales had been arrested.

“This can’t be the story,” he thought.

“It’s just unfortunate that this man was arrested for something that, on the surface, he’s doing nothing but protecting his family,” Luff said. “This is something, usually, people get awarded for, get medals for, get celebrated for. Yet, for some reason, (Morales) is sitting in a jail cell.”

On Thursday, Luff pleaded for a time-served sentence. He said Morales only did what any father would have done when he saw his child being abused.

He said Morales has spent 325 days in jail to date and that should be sufficient time considering what occurred.

Luff added that the victim refused medical treatment and never did get any medical treatment for any injuries he sustained.

Gazo objected to the request for time-served. He said the plea deal he made with the defendant took into consideration what occurred.

He said he even agreed to not oppose a sentence in the mitigated range, but imposing a time-served sentence would go even lower than that. He said the commonwealth can’t permit “vigilante justice.” He said a lower sentence would send the wrong message to the public that you can take the law into your own hands.

Gazo noted that the weapons count he agreed to drop saved Morales facing a mandatory state term of five to 10 years if convicted.

Morales, whose plea was entered via video from the Berks County prison where he is an inmate, said he is waiting to be sentenced for a state parole violation.

He said he was still on parole for an aggravated assault on a police officer charge when the incident occurred. He claimed he is facing a 24- to 40-month sentence.

Luff added that the term must be run consecutive to any sentence Carbon imposed, per the law. Luff said the state will resentence Morales after Carbon imposes its sentence.

Morales told Nanovic, “I did something I felt I had to do.”

Mead had told investigators that Morales had supplied him with drugs the day of the incident. But Morales told Nanovic that was not true.

Nanovic gave Morales credit for 325 days and also ordered he get a drug and alcohol evaluation and supply a DNA sample.

Mead is facing 13 criminals charges including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, rape of a child, corruption of a minor, indecent assault and other counts related to the incident.

His case is pending and he remains an inmate in the county prison. He has filed a petition for a bail reduction. A hearing on that request is scheduled for May 25.