City man pleads to raping inmate

Emery sentenced for assaults that occurred in Blair County Prison

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man will spend eight to 16 years in a state prison after pleading guilty to a pair of criminal charges linked to raping a fellow male inmate inside the Blair County Prison in December 2016.

Ralph Leroy Emery, 56, stood before Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle on Friday and entered guilty pleas to charges of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in exchange for the recommended sentence.

Those were two of the 35 charges Hollidaysburg Borough police filed Dec. 12 against Emery based on an inmate’s allegations, supported by DNA evidence linking Emery to the sexual assault.

In a criminal complaint, Sgt. Rodney Estep reported that semen collected from the victim’s underwear was “consistent” with Emery’s DNA.

Upon advising Emery of those DNA results in September, Estep said Emery told him that the intercourse had been consensual and that his fellow inmate “never said no.”

Charges indicate the initial assault occurred Dec. 21, 2016, while Emery and the victim inmate were assigned to a cell in the restricted housing unit. The victim inmate said Emery pushed him onto a bed and sexually assaulted him. On Dec. 22, 2016, the victim inmate said that Emery told him not to tell anyone what had happened, then sexually assaulted him again.

On Dec. 24, 2016, the victim inmate said Emery was attempting to again sexually assault him when another inmate pulled Emery off him and started fighting with him. Prison personnel responded to the fight and separated the three inmates, the complaint reports.

Subsequently, the victim inmate asked for a medical examination and reported being raped by his cellmate. He was transported that night to UPMC Altoona for further examination.

In addition to the jail time, Doyle directed Emery to participate in a mental health assessment and in an assessment by the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, as requested by Assistant District Attorney Amanda Jacobson.

Assistant Public Defender Julia Burke questioned the request by referencing Commonwealth vs. Muniz. That ruling by the state Supreme Court found fault with the sexual offender rules the state introduced in 2012 that exceeded earlier requirements.

Jacobson told Doyle that she understood that assessments are still being done.

Doyle said she would direct Emery to be assessed but allow time for Burke to submit an objection.

Doyle also recognized Emery as a Megan’s Law Tier III offender, which requires him to register quarterly with state police for the rest of his life.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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