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August 28, 2019

Man who climbed Bethlehem SteelStacks to receive mental health treatment

Jonathan Wallace, 24, of Mertztown, Berks County, was charged with a felony for risking catastrophe in July

Courts Mental Health
Man climbed Bethlehem SteelStacks mental health Bill Oxford /on Unsplash

Defense lawyer for Jonathan Wallace, the man who climbed an old blast furnace at the Bethlehem SteelStacks, wants to seek mental health treatment. Wallace was charged with risking a catastrophe as well as reckless endangerment and defiant trespass.

A suicidal man who climbed the Bethlehem SteelStacks and stayed on top of the blast furnace for 21 hours will remain in prison while the defense and prosecution negotiate a sentencing option that includes mental health treatment. 

A hearing was held for Jonathan Wallace, 25, of Mertztown, Berks County, on Wednesday in a Northampton County courtroom. In July, Wallace had been charged with risking a catastrophe, reckless endangerment and defiant trespass for breaking into and climbing the SteelStacks ,reportedly to commit suicide. 

Prosecutors argued that Wallace endangered the lives of the first responders who attempted to help him down from the 230-foot structure. Defense attorney, Rory Driscole, argued, that Wallace's actions were not intended to do harm and that he needs mental health treatment, The Morning Call reported. 

Assistant District Attorney Edward Penetar said he wants craft a sentence that includes mental health care. 

When the incident occurred, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Wallace might be a good fit for the county's mental health court. However, Driscole argues that because his last address was in Berks County he may not be eligible for the program as it only pertains to Northampton County residents.

Wallace may also face additional charges for "some type of assault" that happened while he was held at a mental health facility in Carbon County, following his arrest in Bethlehem, The Morning Call reported.

The incident in July began just before 7 p.m. on Friday, July 12, when a Wallace jumped an eight-foot fence to gain access to the Bethlehem SteelStacks property. He stayed on top of the 230-foot structure for 21 hours before being talked down by first responders. He was arraigned that following Thursday, July 18. 

He is currently being held on $15,000 bail at Northampton County Jail.

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