The longtime pastor of Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center in North Philadelphia sexually abused three people, including a former parishioner, when they were minors, according to prosecutors in Montgomery County.
The Rev. Mark Hatcher, 59, of Blue Bell, was charged Wednesday with rape, statutory sexual assault, corruption of a minor, and related offenses. Hatcher remained in custody as prosecutors successfully lobbied a magisterial district judge in Blue Bell to deny him bail, calling him a “danger to the community,” according to court records.
Hatcher’s attorney, R. Emmett Madden, said the pastor maintains his innocence and looks forward to defending against the charges in court.
”These are unsubstantiated allegations from 15 years ago with no corroborating evidence of any kind,” Madden said. “I’ve received significant outreach from family, friends, and members of the community, which all indicates the opposite of what was alleged.”
Members of Hatcher’s family declined to comment Thursday, and efforts to reach staff members at the church, located inside the Met Philadelphia on North Broad Street, were unsuccessful.
The allegations against Hatcher — who has overseen Holy Ghost for decades, succeeding his father in that role — date back to 2000, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in his arrest.
In January, two of Hatcher’s relatives told police in Whitpain Township that he sexually abused them at his Blue Bell home, the affidavit said. One of the victims told police Hatcher molested her in 2000 when she was 15, while another said Hatcher sexually assaulted him at least five times, beginning in 2007 when he was 6 years old.
The third victim was 13 in 2006 when she went to dinner with Hatcher, her pastor at Holy Ghost, and he stopped to check on a house being renovated in Brewerytown that at the time was owned by the church, according to the affidavit and public records. They walked into the house, the affidavit said, and the girl sat on an old mattress while Hatcher examined a light switch. Hatcher then walked over, pinned her down, and raped her, covering her mouth as she tried to scream for help, according to the affidavit.
She reported the rape to Philadelphia police in 2008, but Hatcher was never charged.
Seth Williams was Philadelphia’s district attorney at the time. Jane Roh, current spokesperson for the DA’s Office, said Montgomery County reached out to their Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit in January, and they recovered the old case records.
Notes in the file say the accuser was believed, Roh said, and that police and prosecutors found her account to be credible. But for some reason, Roh said, prosecutors did not think they could meet the burden of proof in court, and did not pursue charges.
Those charges are moving forward now, Roh said, and will be prosecuted in Montgomery County.
Voter registration records show that Hatcher lists a rowhouse on the 2900 block of North Bonsall Street in North Philly as his residence, and that he voted in Philly in November using that address.
But when an Inquirer reporter visited the home, a woman who lived there said she did not know Hatcher or why he would list their place as his residence. The woman said that she and her sister have lived in the house for more than 20 years, and that they periodically receive mail addressed to Hatcher, but do not know him and thought it was a mistake.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group for people who’ve been abused by members of the religious community, said it stands in solidarity with the victims.
“We know that delayed disclosure of such abuse is common and we encourage anyone who may have suffered similar harm to report their information to law enforcement. Furthermore, given the age and long career of the accused, we believe there may be more victims out there,” said Mike McDonnell, SNAP’s spokesperson.
» READ MORE: Congregations sell their deeds in order to survive
Holy Ghost, a Pentecostal church with a few hundred members, has long worshiped inside the Met. In 2012, its leaders sold a 50% stake in the property to developer Eric Blumenfeld for $1, a share in rental profits, and the right to continue worshiping there.
That deal opened the way for a $56 million makeover of the old Metropolitan Opera House, built in 1908 by theater impresario Oscar Hammerstein I, into a major concert venue and a hub of development on North Broad Street.