NORRISTOWN — A West Norriton man accused of sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint in Norristown Farm Park has lost his bid to reduce the bail that is keeping him in jail while he awaits trial.
The $1 million bail previously set by a district court judge for Mason Alexander Hall will remain intact, according to an order filed on Tuesday by Montgomery County Judge Melissa S. Sterling.
During a hearing earlier this month, defense lawyer Matthew W. Quigg argued setting bail at $1 million “is the functional equivalent of denying Mr. Hall bail” as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
But prosecutors argued Hall is accused of a violent offense and suggested he is a risk to flee. The case is being handled by Assistant District Attorney Brianna Ringwood.
At the time of Hall’s arrest last October, District Court Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar set his bail at $1 million. Following Hall’s preliminary hearing on the charges, District Court Judge Marc A. Alfarano denied a request to reduce the bail.
Quigg previously argued the bail was excessive and that Hall, who is supported by his parents and a brother, has strong family ties.
Hall, 20, of the 2000 block of Palmer Road, is awaiting trial on charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, possessing an instrument of crime and possession of a firearm by a minor in connection with the alleged Aug. 1, 2017, sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman at the park in West Norriton.
A #WestNorriton man accused of sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint in #Norristown Farm Park lost his bid to reduce the $1 million bail keeping him in jail while he awaits trial.#MontcoPa Judge Melissa S. Sterling orders the bail for Mason Alexander Hall will remain intact pic.twitter.com/Fx9qK9e4bk— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) February 19, 2020
Hall faces a pretrial conference on the charges in March before Judge William R. Carpenter.
The investigation began about 10:50 a.m. Aug. 1, 2017, when the victim, “crying and hysterical,” called 911 to report she had been raped at gunpoint by an unknown male as she was walking along Stony Creek Road between Upper and Lower Farm Park roads in the West Norriton section of the park, according to a criminal complaint.
“The suspect grabbed the victim from behind by placing his left arm around her neck. The suspect then placed a semiautomatic handgun to her right temple and told her to keep walking or he would shoot her,” detectives alleged in the arrest affidavit.
The woman offered the suspect money and keys to her car but the attacker led her to a secluded pasture where the sexual assault occurred, according to previous testimony.
Initially, investigators canvassed the park, used a tracking dog, scoured surveillance video from the area and submitted recovered DNA to law enforcement databases containing information about known sex offenders. But none resulted in a match.
Authorities also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and received some tips but they did not lead to an arrest.
In January 2018, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele announced that the alleged perpetrator’s DNA was submitted to Parabon NanoLabs Inc., of Reston, Va., for “phenotyping analysis,” which allowed authorities to produce a DNA-generated composite illustration, a scientific appropriation of the suspect’s likely appearance. Steele called it “a high-tech police artist’s sketch.”
Authorities then used cutting-edge genetic genealogy research, “familial DNA or partial matches,” to identify living or deceased distant relatives of the unidentified perpetrator.
Detectives interviewed a number of those individuals and worked their way closer to the perpetrator, Steele said, adding two local suspects were developed, including Hall, who fit the general physical description provided by the victim.
During the investigation, detectives also learned Hall was involved in an unrelated Sept. 23, 2017, incident in Norristown during which officers recovered a bloody hammer that Hall allegedly admitted to using to break headlamps of a vehicle, according to a criminal complaint filed by county Detective Walter Kerr.
On Sept 27, county detectives retrieved the bloody hammer from Norristown police and submitted it for DNA testing. The DNA profile developed from blood on the hammer was compared to the DNA profile of the perpetrator of the alleged sexual assault and it led to Hall as the attacker, according to court papers.