xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Westminster man to serve 30 days for punching Biden supporter following a political rally last year

A Carroll County judge sentenced a Westminster man to serve 30 days in jail after hearing a statement from a doctor that post-traumatic stress disorder contributed to the man punching a supporter of President Biden in the face last year.

Ralph Thomas Prophet, 57, was charged in December with second-degree assault after punching Henry Reiff, a retired McDaniel College professor, who was walking home from a political rally. Prophet’s defense admitted to the assault and entered a plea of not guilty, but agreed to the statement of facts prosecutors presented at Tuesday’s hearing in Carroll County Circuit Court.

Advertisement

Judge Michael Galloway sentenced Prophet to 18 months of jail time, then suspended all but 30 days to be served on the weekends. Prophet must also serve three years of supervised probation and 75 hours volunteer community service within six months.

Reiff, a Westminster resident and a self-proclaimed community activist, was walking home Dec. 5 from a rally with a flag that said “Biden Harris 2020.” He said that while walking on West Main Street, Prophet walked toward him screaming from the other side of the street calling him and the elected officials on his flag “communists” and various expletives while also pointing his middle finger.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Reiff continued his walk and when he approached Maryland Avenue, the same man turned out of an alley, rolled down his car window, and screamed the same names and phrases. Reiff said the man got out of his car, chest-bumped Reiff, took the flag and threw it to the ground and then punched him.

Reiff said before the hearing on Tuesday that he was “very satisfied” Prophet took a plea instead of going to trial. Reiff added that he would have been concerned for a jury trial since the defense would only need to “find one of 12 [jurors] that would’ve found that it was justified.”

Gary Desper, the attorney representing Prophet, told the judge Prophet had an abusive childhood, dealt with trauma, had a troubled marriage and abused alcohol, but he “turned his life around.” He added that Prophet never realized or addressed that he struggled with mental health. But it “came to a head” during the Dec. 5 incident.

Desper said Prophet is “deeply embarrassed” and remorseful for what he did and understands that everyone has a First Amendment right. He invited Anthony Swetz, who provides mental health services, to give a statement about Prophet’s PTSD. Swetz said based on Prophet’s past experiences, he sees the world in a negative light. He called Prophet an “advocate Trumper” with entrenched beliefs that align with the former President Donald Trump, like that the election was stolen.

Advertisement

Swetz said he’s been seeing Prophet weekly for six months. He added that Prophet is involved in the church, has disconnected from cable news that could be a trigger and completed 16 hours of anger management.

“It is unlikely, and you can never say ‘never,’ but it is unlikely he will ever commit this offense again,” Swetz said, adding later that Prophet needs to be held accountable for the offense.

Swetz also suggested Prophet have public safety supervision when on the street and should continue treatment for PTSD.

Desper requested the court consider probation and noted that incarceration would prevent Prophet from receiving his mental health treatment. He also said he worried incarceration would prevent Prophet from keeping his job and his new home. He requested if he is incarcerated to allow him to serve time on the weekends.

Reiff addressed the court restating what happened to him that day he was hit by Prophet and how it affected him since.

“I remember seeing his fist in my face,” he read from a statement.

Reiff, 67, said the incident left him irritable and anxious, and that it affected his family life. He said he also suffers from PTSD, sees a therapist and was reminded by the assault again when he saw the riots at the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

“I have worked hard to let go,” he said.

Ted Eyler, assistant state’s attorney for Carroll County, restated the events of Dec. 5, and requested Prophet to receive a three-year sentence, noting Prophet’s criminal history that involved battery, assault and burglary charges.

Prophet read his apology to the court, directly apologizing to Reiff and asking for his forgiveness. He also apologized to the court and stated the incident “should’ve never happened.”

Galloway spoke about how PTSD has been widely talked about recently and mentioned that it was a disorder his dad, a World War II veteran, suffered from.

“I am not someone, Mr. Prophet, who believes that mental health isn’t a substantial factor in just about every criminal case that comes into court,” he said.

Galloway noted that based on Prophet’s upbringing and history he believes that without treatment, he would probably end up in court again. And before he gave the sentencing, Galloway spoke about the importance of the First Amendment and the danger of hurting people who express opposing political opinions.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement