Accused of threatening to wreak havoc if wife’s hospice care was not reinstated
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
A Harshaw man, charged in April with making terroristic threats, has been bound over for further court proceedings.
Kenneth S. Welsh, 62, was arrested April 19 after allegedly making a threat to a social worker. According to the reporting officer, Sgt. Brian Erikson, Welsh was informed via a telephone conversation by an Aspirus social worker April 18 that Comfort Care Services, the contracted agency which provided hospice services to his wife, was terminating care. Welsh reportedly replied that he would appeal, saying, “You all know if this appeal goes anyway but favorable to Mary, I will wreak havoc on you all.”
At Welsh’s preliminary hearing May 31, Erikson testified that Welsh’s probation officer, Lindsay Galvin, was notified of his statement, and Galvin contacted the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department. Erikson noted that Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital was under lockdown, meaning people were allowed to come and go, but security was watching the entrances. Welsh was eventually arrested near his Harshaw home the day after his initial phone call with the Aspirus social worker.
In court, public defender Mary Roth Burns argued that Welsh has a right to free speech and that his statement was “too vague” to fit the charge of making a terroristic threat and he “didn’t have the intention to evacuate a building or even threaten their safety,” two elements of the crime.
“He is trying to get back services for (his wife), trying to prevent termination of services,” Burns said. “Why would he jeopardize her services with this statement?” Welsh, she said, overreacted and in reaction to that, charges were filed.
Burns added that the social worker and hospice care worker “apparently” didn’t feel threatened because, “24 hours went by before anyone notified law enforcement.”
Welsh was convicted in September 2016 of operating a firearm while intoxicated and was initially sentenced to three years in prison. That conviction was vacated and Oneida County Circuit Judge Michael Bloom imposed and stayed a 3 ½ year prison sentence on an amended charge of injury by negligent use of a weapon and was placed on probation April 11.
District Attorney Michael Schiek told the court that whether Welsh intended to cause “panic or fear,” can be interpreted from the statement itself.
“I think because of the connection with the hospice care and association with Aspirus, it can be inferred that anyone connected with those services should be concerned about havoc being wreaked on them,” Schiek said.
In his ruling, Judge Patrick O’Melia stated that it’s not required that the Aspirus social worker or hospice provider call authorities “within minutes or hours and I’m not sure whether that adds credence to or takes away whether it was a true threat.”
It was Welsh’s intent, what was said during the call, O’Melia said, noting that the involved parties were aware of Welsh’s history and aware of his use of guns.
“Was in at overreaction? In this day and age? No,” O’Melia said. “It was not an overreaction. At all. If that had been called into a school for whatever reason, action would have been taken.”
The judge also pushed back against Burns’ assertion of free speech, saying, “It’s not free speech to make those comments to somebody in those circumstances with his history.”
The court denied a Burns motion for bond modification. Welsh remains jailed on a $20,000 cash bond and is set for arraignment June 8.