Elected official's plea deal left a bad taste for many in the case

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Three years of probation.

That's the sentence former North York Tax Collector Keith Ramsay received after admitting he fired a gun in the air to scare mourners who'd gathered in a nearby cemetery, covered it up by claiming the sound was firecrackers, and — in a separate case — sexted a fellow elected official.

The sentence, part of plea deal negotiated with the York County District Attorney’s Office, didn't sit well with many of the people involved in Ramsay's assault and harassment cases.

The harassment victim, an elected official in North York, is unhappy. In court, the judge criticized the deal and used an expletive to describe Ramsay. The mourners didn't respond to requests for comment; according to prosecutors, they wished to avoid testifying in the case.

“It’s just not fair,” said Angela Ramsay, Keith Ramsay's ex-wife who herself recently ran afoul of the law.

She spoke after the 57-year-old Keith Ramsay pleaded guilty Nov. 7 to three misdemeanor counts — harassment, simple assault and tampering with physical evidence. In addition to one year of probation for each count, the judge revoked his firearm permit and ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation and pay $240 restitution.

Keith Ramsay

Angela Ramsay compared his sentence to her sentence in a domestic violence case. She pleaded guilty last November to a misdemeanor simple assault charge, same as Keith Ramsay, from a domestic violence case.

She then got two years probation and paid about $2,400 in fines and costs, according to court records. Holding their cases and sentences side-by-side, she alleged her ex walked away with a lighter punishment in spite of the crimes committed.

“Bottom line is, it’s not fair. He received special treatment,” Angela Ramsay said. “It’s not fair that they treat one situation one way — one crime one way — and a crime just like it, even worse, another way because of what the person was.”

Kyle King, spokesperson for the York County District Attorney's Office, said criminal cases aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. No two are the same, he said, and they’re each decided on the merits of the facts and evidence involved.

“After conversations we had with all the parties, we felt like that was the best resolution possible,” King said of Keith Ramsay’s sentence.

Still, the victim in the harassment case wanted a tougher sentence. The person wished to remain unnamed in the story as a victim of sexual misconduct.

“My request to the DA was that he would be charged to the fullest extent of the law,” the victim said. “Whether he got it or not, I don’t know. I tend to feel he didn’t.”

The judge declined to speak to The York Dispatch about the sentence after the hearing.

Keith Ramsay also declined comment.

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What happened: An Election Night proposition started the chain of events that led to the charges against Keith Ramsay.

While serving as North York's elected tax collector at the time, he contacted a borough councilperson the night of Nov. 2, 2021, seeking a sexual relationship. He made further advances a few days later, sending the victim a lewd video.

The person reported the behavior to police and sought a civil protection from sexual violence order.

A D.A.’s office detective investigated the allegations, taking over from Northern York County Regional Police due to a conflict of interest involving elected officials in their jurisdiction, charging documents noted.

In the process, the detective spoke to Angela Ramsay about the harassment. The conversation then swung to a new issue as she came clean on the truth of a situation the year prior, in June 2020, at the home she and Keith Ramsay shared in the 100 block of Olympia Avenue while married — and while he was in the middle of a previous term as tax collector.

Over the course of the investigation, the detective learned Keith Ramsay fired a gun to break up a dispute and then covered it up by claiming he lit firecrackers.

That June night, a group of people visited the gravesites of two loved ones at Lebanon Cemetery on the anniversary of their homicides. The markers were apparently near the Ramsays’ home, which bordered the cemetery.

Lebanon Cemetery, a historic Black cemetery dating back to 1872, is shown in North York Borough, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. The Lebanon Cemetery Association, partnering with nonprofit Friends of Lebanon Cemetery, are working to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of this historical landmark where there are currently 3,624 known graves, with more likely to be discovered. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The memorial, though, led to an argument where Angela Ramsay confronted the group over noise at the site, the detective said. The dispute escalated when Keith Ramsay got involved, with him firing a handgun twice in the air. The group fled, and he allegedly fired two more times as they drove away.

The group called 911, according to court records. Northern York Regional officers responded and took a report.

Police then went to the Ramsays’ house to question Keith Ramsay about the shots. The Navy veteran and retired firefighter claimed he'd set off firecrackers, and he showed police what turned out to be burnt sparkler husks, according to the detective’s findings.

The police seemed to accept Keith Ramsay's explanation, and the case was apparently dropped with no further action taken.

When the D.A.'s office detective spoke to a woman from the group of mourners as part of his investigation into Ramsay, she told him what they were told in 2020.

“She stated the officer again told her it was fireworks and that she was overreacting, and then told them to depart the area,” the detective stated, in a criminal complaint.

The investigation found Keith Ramsay had picked bullet shell casings from his gun out of the yard, hid them and replaced them with firecrackers he’d set off to cover up the shots, according to court records.

Keith Ramsay was then charged with seven misdemeanor counts across the two cases. Sexting the other borough official led to harassment and open lewdness charges. From the cemetery incident, he was charged with three counts of simple assault, as well as disorderly conduct and tampering with physical evidence.

He was released on $40,000 unsecured bail by a district court.

Angela Ramsay's charges: Meanwhile, about five months after the assault, police received another 911 call from the Ramsays’ home in November 2020. A fight erupted as Angela Ramsay accused her usband of cheating. He alleged in the call that she punched him, got a handgun and threatened him with it while warning him to get out of the house.

Angela Ramsay was arrested and charged with the second-grade misdemeanor simple assault count. She posted a $10,000 surety bond to be released from jail, according to court records.

However, she told The York Dispatch she ended up spending a week at York County Prison due to a clerical error showing she hadn’t paid.

She also said she didn’t threaten to shoot Keith Ramsay.

“I pointed a gun, that was it. I pointed a gun and told him to leave,” Angela Ramsay said.

Angela Lynn Ramsay

The Ramsays divorced in December 2020. Angela Ramsay also noted Keith Ramsay had sought a three-year protection-from-abuse against her.

She pleaded guilty to the assault charge in June 2021 and was ordered to the two years of probation.

Plea agreement: After Keith Ramsay was charged in the other cases, he resigned as tax collector in February 2022. He pleaded guilty Nov. 7, admitting during a hearing in the Court of Common Pleas to sending lewd content to the council member and to firing a gun in the air during the cemetery dispute.

As part of the agreement, he pleaded to the third-grade misdemeanor harassment, and second-grade misdemeanor simple assault and tampering with evidence counts. The other four charges were dismissed.

King pointed out state sentencing guidelines on the harassment charge called for a fine, using scoring that takes the gravity of the offense and the individual's prior criminal record. But Keith Ramsay’s sentence went higher than that with probation, King said.

“While [Keith Ramsay] got off maybe a little lighter on the guideline on [the assault case], he got a little more on the other case,” King said.

King also said the victims from the assault case didn’t want to have to testify at a trial. The plea agreement let them avoid that, he said.

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Judge Harry Ness added the requirement for Keith Ramsay to undergo a mental health evaluation as part of his sentence during the hearing. He also included the restitution the borough official sought for therapy co-pays. And Keith Ramsay was stripped of his permit to carry firearms, though he was allowed to keep his guns.

Ness was vocal about his dissatisfaction with the plea terms.

“I’m not crazy about this deal,” he said, during the hearing.

Ness apologized to the borough official, calling the sentence “pretty much a minor imposition” on Keith Ramsay. He also called Ramsay immature and an “a--” during the hearing.

North York: In December 2021, after the harassment allegations were reported, members of the North York council were asked about enacting a code of conduct during a meeting.

No action was taken as a discussion centered on what the council could do, couldn’t do — including how the borough has no control over the tax collector position — and that at the time the accusations were still new.

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Since then, the council underwent significant shuffling. Board president Rick Shank resigned along with Tina Strine and Deb Smith, and new members filled those seats.

The York Dispatch contacted the current council members last week, seeking comments now that Keith Ramsay has pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

No responses were returned.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.