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Whitpain pastor convicted of child sexual assault to face predator hearing before judge | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Mark Hatcher, of Blue Bell, pastor of Holy Ghost Headquarters in Philadelphia, leaves a Montgomery County courtroom on Feb. 28, 2024, to await sentencing after a jury convicted him of rape and indecent assault of minors. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

NORRISTOWN — A Whitpain Township pastor convicted of indecent and sexual assault of an underage boy and two girls during an eight-year period at his home and in Philadelphia should be classified as a sexually violent predator, a panel of experts who assess convicted sexual offenders has recommended to a judge.

Mark Hatcher, 61, of the 800 block of Village Circle Drive in the Blue Bell section of Whitpain, will now face a sexually violent predator hearing in August before Montgomery County Judge Thomas C. Branca, who will make the final determination if Hatcher should be classified as a sexually violent predator based on numerous factors set forth in the law.

The recommendation by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board was revealed in a court document filed by county prosecutors requesting the predator hearing.

“Now that the sex offender assessment board has made its determination, at the sentencing hearing I will call an expert witness who did this assessment and layout the evidence for why he should be found to be a sexually violent predator,” Assistant District Attorney Caroline Rose Goldstein explained.

Defense lawyers also could call witnesses to challenge the state board’s determination. It hasn’t been revealed if Hatcher, a pastor of Holy Ghost Headquarters that gathers at The Met theatre on North Broad Street in North Philadelphia, agreed to be interviewed by the board as it conducted its assessment.

Defense lawyer Robert Marc Gamburg represented Hatcher during the trial. Court records indicate that Hatcher is currently represented by defense lawyer Andrew Robert Alston.

Specific details of the assessment report will be revealed at the hearing.

If the judge ultimately determines Hatcher is a sexually violent predator, then Hatcher would face more stringent restrictions while on probation or parole.

The restrictions include: lifetime, at least monthly, mandatory sex offender counseling with a treatment provider approved by the state board; “active community notification,” whereby local law enforcement authorities notify neighbors, local day care centers, school districts and institutions of higher education and the county children and youth agency of the name, address and a photograph of the offender; and lifetime registration with state police on a quarterly basis.

During a three-day trial in February, a jury convicted Hatcher of 10 charges of rape, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault and indecent assault of a child in connection with assaults of a boy and two girls between the ages of 6 and 15 in Whitpain and Philadelphia between 2000 and 2008.

Mark Hatcher, pastor of Holy Ghost Headquarters in Philadelphia. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Mark Hatcher, pastor of Holy Ghost Headquarters in Philadelphia. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. – MediaNews Group)

Hatcher was permitted to remain free on bail pending a sentencing hearing but he had to surrender his passport and was ordered to have no contact with minors. Hatcher potentially faces several years in prison on the charges.

Goldstein previously vowed to seek a lengthy state prison term against Hatcher.

Hatcher did not testify during the trial but as he left the courtroom to await his sentencing hearing, Hatcher said the verdict was “not right.”

State law requires that after a conviction for a sexually violent offense, but prior to sentencing, a judge must order the individual to be assessed by the state board to determine if the offender meets the legal criteria to be designated a sexually violent predator. Board members are appointed by the governor and include psychologists, psychiatrists and criminal justice officials who are experts in the assessment and treatment of sexual offenders.

Under state law, a sexually violent predator is defined as someone who has “a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.”

In conducting the assessment, the board considers certain criteria, including whether the offenses involved multiple victims, the nature of the sexual contact with the victims, the ages of the victims and the offender and the relationship of the offender to the victim.

During the trial, an adult man and two adult women testified Hatcher indecently and sexually assaulted them while they were in his company in Whitpain and Philadelphia. Hatcher knew the victims’ families, some of whom attended his church.

The investigation of Hatcher began in January 2022 when one of the victims went to Whitpain police to report what happened to him when he was a child, according to the criminal complaint filed by Whitpain Detective Bradly Potter.

The 22-year-old man testified he was 6-years-old in the summer of 2007 when Hatcher touched him in an indecent manner and forced him to touch Hatcher’s penis while Hatcher masturbated. The victim recalled Hatcher had indecent contact with him again when he was 7 years old in 2008, specifically, Hatcher kissed him on the mouth and touched his buttocks as the boy was playing with a Noah’s Ark toy while visiting Hatcher’s Whitpain home.

A 39-year-old woman testified she was molested by Hatcher in 2000, when she was 15 years old and was visiting Hatcher’s Whitpain residence. The woman said Hatcher exposed his body to her, then approached her from behind and fondled her breasts. She recalled Hatcher asking her if he made her feel uncomfortable and when she told him “yes” he stopped touching her.

A second woman testified that she was 13 when Hatcher forcibly raped her when she was alone with the pastor in a vacant Philadelphia residence in November 2006. The woman said Hatcher put his hand over her mouth when she began to scream and eventually stopped the sexual assault while telling her he was “going to save me for my husband,” according to testimony.

The victim had reported the assault to Philadelphia authorities at the time but no charges were filed by prosecutors there, testimony revealed.

While Goldstein argued Hatcher was a trusted pastor and mentor to the victims and took advantage of that trust for his sexual gratification, Gamburg suggested the three victims fabricated the allegations and he questioned their delays in reporting their claims.

Relatives of Hatcher and members of his congregation testified he has a good reputation in the community for being “a non-violent, peaceful and law-abiding man.”

Goldstein argued the victims had no reasons to lie.

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