6 charged in reported racial attack

Criminal charges were filed Wednesday against six people from across the state accused of the racially-motivated assault of a local black man in an Avalon bar on July 7.

Public concern grew after the story was first reported in the July 13 issue of The Citizen due to the fact that charges had not yet been filed against the people who assaulted Paul Morris Sr. at the Jackman Inn while calling him racial slurs. Some of the group members wore clothing that identified them as being members of Keystone United, formerly Keystone State Skinheads, a White Nationalist hate group centered in Harrisburg. Morris received facial injuries but did not seek medical attention.

Morris said that he had stopped by the Jackman to deliver a thank you note to the kitchen manager, who had prepared food for Morris’s son’s recent graduation party. He and the kitchen manager were on the back outside deck when the group started making comments related to Morris’s race. When Morris attempted to re-enter the bar to leave the business, he reported that he was jumped by several of the men. The women joined in, kicking Morris when he leaned over to pick up the glasses that had been knocked off his face, he said.

Police Chief Tom Kokoski had been off duty during the week between the assault and the story, but on returning Monday quickly put to rest reports that the people involved would be cited with summary offenses. Kokoski said that citations were not an option, but that the department wanted to thoroughly investigate the incident in an effort to determine if there was sufficient evidence to charge members of the group with ethnic intimidation.

Ethnic intimidation is the Pennsylvania version of what is generally referred to as a hate crime. It is an add-on offense, meaning that it must be related to some other criminal offense, such as assault. Although a hate crime under federal law is a felony, in Pennsylvania the offense is graded one degree higher than the related criminal offense.

In the case of the Avalon attack, six people have been charged with simple assault, a second degree misdemeanor, making the ethnic intimidation charges first degree misdemeanors. All also have been charged with two counts of criminal conspiracy.

The group charged in the Avalon assault includes four men and two women. Only one lives in the North Boroughs, James Edward Kryl, 46. The others charged are: Natasha Dawn Bowers, 33, of Roaring Springs, PA; Terrence Raymon Stockey, 40, of Beaver, PA; Jeremy L. Ingram, 35, of Hollidaysburg, PA; Travis Lee Cornell, 33, of Marianna, PA; and Crystal Lynn Shields, 23, of Tarentum, PA.

As permitted under Pennsylvania law, all six will receive a summons as opposed to police attempting to physically take the suspects into custody across the state. They have been ordered to appear in court on Aug. 30, at which time bail will be set. Arrest warrants will be issued for any defendant who fails to show up for the hearing.