Lehigh Valley

Former Meals on Wheels volunteer sentenced for assaulting clients

63-year-old will spend 5 to 23 months in prison

EASTON, Pa. - Supporters of the former Meals on Wheels volunteer accused of sexual misconduct with two clients in their homes described a compassionate man who spent his life helping others despite ongoing medical issues.

But the group’s executive director offered a very different view, chastising the 63-year-old for preying on some of society’s most vulnerable and using a volunteer organization to do it.

A Northampton County Judge sentenced Mark Walker to 5 to 23 months in prison followed by 10 years probation in connection with the assaults on two women in February 2015. Judge Michael Koury agreed to allow Walker to report to prison in a week, so that prison officials could review his medical records.

Walker pleaded no contest in December to two counts of criminal trespass and one count each of indecent assault and indecent exposure. In pleading no contest, Walker did not admit guilt, but acknowledged prosecutors likely had enough evidence to convict him.

Authorities accused the Lower Saucon Township man of groping a Northampton Borough woman in her home and trying to make her touch him. He also exposed himself to a wheelchair-bound woman in Tatamy and touched himself.

Both crimes occurred on Feb. 17, 2015, while Walker was volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

Testimony provided Friday indicated Walker was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was 17. He was diagnosed more recently with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, which defense attorney Phil Lauer said is often initially diagnosed as a psychological issue.

Memory loss and delusions can be side effects of the condition, according to Lauer.

In speaking about his character before his latest diagnosis, supporters said Walker worked as a nurse and in private practice as a marriage counselor for about 20 years and described him kind-hearted.

Walker, who said he didn’t remember the incidents, apologized to the court, the victims and Meals on Wheels, which he said did nothing wrong.

JoAnn Nenow, executive director of Meals on Wheels Northampton County, said the organization was shocked two years ago to learn about the accusations against Walker. About 4,000 volunteers have delivered meals to clients and there was never an incident like this, she said.

“We trusted him like we do all our volunteers, and he betrayed that trust,” Nenow said.

In each case, Walker arrived at the victim’s houses despite calls from Meals on Wheels that deliveries were suspended that day due to weather conditions. In one case, Walker claimed to have left prescription sunglasses at one client’s home and claimed to be replacing a trash can for another client.

In a statement read by her father, one victim said Walker “shattered her feelings of being safe in her own home.” The second victim, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, told the judge she kept trying to push Walker out of her home after he touched her.

She described calling Meals on Wheels in a desperate attempt to protect whichever client Walker was prepared to visit next.

“I hope that Mark Walker gets the most you can possibly give him,” she told the judge.

Lauer asked the judge to consider a house arrest sentence based on Walker’s health concerns, including the need for medication given via a catheter. Assistant District Attorney Anthony Casola said he understood Walker’s complicated medical history and would leave the issue of house arrest to the court’s discretion.

Casola did express a “very serious concern” about Walker using a charitable organization to gain access to his victims.

Koury ordered that Walker serve his sentence in county prison, but said he could apply to be furloughed to receive certain medical treatments if prison medical staff felt they could not meet his needs.

Walker’s sentencing had been delayed due to health reasons.

A pre-sentencing investigation determined Walker will not be classified as a sexually violent predator. As part of a negotiated plea, prosecutors agreed to withdraw other charges, including harassment, aggravated indecent assault, attempted aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault forcible compulsion.

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