'You're an a--,' judge tells former elected official in assault, sexting cases

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

Judge Harry Ness didn’t mince words with a former elected official who admitted that — in separate cases — he fired a gun during a dispute and sexted a local councilperson.

“You’re an a--,” Ness told Keith Ramsay, North York's former tax collector, during a court hearing. “I’m not crazy about this deal either.”

Ramsay pleaded guilty Monday to three misdemeanors — simple assault and tampering with evidence in one case, and harassment in the other. He avoided prison time as part of the agreement but will serve three years on probation.

Keith Ramsay

The 57-year-old’s admissions came one year after he sent texts in which he exposed himself to a borough councilperson starting on election night, Nov. 2, 2021. The texts, and eventually a lewd video, were his way of propositioning her to start a sexual relationship.

Before that night, before texting the councilperson “out of the blue,” the two had a professional relationship while Ramsay served as the borough’s elected tax collector at the time.

“I agree I went too far with that,” he said.

“Yep. I agree you went too far too,” Ness replied.

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The councilperson, whom The York Dispatch is not naming because they are a victim of sexual misconduct, reported the behavior to police.

“I’ve never been disrespected in this way,” she said in court. “I also get feelings of extreme anger that he did this to me.”

The councilperson said she’s been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and has had recurring nightmares. She also said she’s had anxiety and attended council meetings via Zoom so she could avoid going to the borough office.

“I’ve become hyper-vigilant about people and my safety and my surrounding,” she said. “I do not feel comfortable going to the borough office where Keith Ramsay at the time had been tax collector.”

The investigation into her complaint led to charges in the sexting case and, ultimately, in a separate assault case last December.

While looking into the harassment allegations, a detective learned that Ramsay had fired apparent warning shots from a gun during a dispute outside his home in June 2020 and then used firecrackers to cover it up.

According to police, the dispute started as a noise complaint while a small group of people had gathered in honor of loved ones at Lebanon Cemetery, behind the home where Ramsay and his now-ex-wife, Angela, lived along Olympia Avenue at the time.

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As the dispute escalated, Ramsay fired a gun in the air close to the approximately five people involved.

“Bullets come down in my experience. We call that ‘gravity,'” Ness said, as the situation was recounted.

The family scattered and fled the cemetery when the shots were fired.

They reported the incident to Northern York Regional Police. Officers responded to Ramsay’s home, and he denied shooting a gun and claimed he had set off firecrackers.

“You’re just deceptive and unhinged,” Ness said.

No charges were filed at the time.

When a detective went back and investigated the situation last year as part of the investigation into the sexting harassment, he learned Ramsay had picked up the bullet shell casings from his yard and replaced them with fireworks. He also took security cameras down from his house, court documents show.

Before the criminal cases were filed, the councilperson sought a protection-from-sexual-violence order last November. That case was later dismissed, however, when a judge said it was filed appropriately and didn’t meet the criteria for protection.

The councilperson criticized the decision as she spoke Monday. Judge Ness said he couldn’t reverse the dismissal, or “unscramble that egg,” since the order was entered and wasn’t appealed. But he sympathized.

“All I can say is that’s a shame,” he told her.

The councilperson also asked for a longer sentence. Ness said he wasn’t pleased with the plea agreement but had to go along with it. He sided with points made by deputy prosecutor Ed Wiest that Ramsay didn’t have a prior criminal history and the charges were misdemeanors.

Ramsay’s attorney, Michael Fenton, pointed out that Ramsay was cooperative during the investigation and criminal proceedings.

“He’s admitting to what he’s done. He’s lost that job. He’s lost other jobs too because of this incident,” Fenton said. Describing the assault case as the “firecracker incident” earned Fenton a rebuke from the judge.

“It’s not a ‘firecracker incident,’” Ness said. “It’s a deception.”

But with the plea, he said, “I’m reluctantly accepting the deal.”

Ness sentenced Ramsay to three years of probation, one year for each count in the two cases. He described the term as a “minor imposition” for Ramsay, as he apologized to the councilperson.

The judge also ordered Ramsay to have no contact with the councilperson, pay $240 in restitution for her therapy co-pays and to undergo a mental health evaluation.

Ramsay lost his firearm permit as part of the counts in the assault case.

He declined to comment after the hearing.

He resigned as tax collector last February after the criminal cases advanced into the Court of Common Pleas.

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