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Bail doubled for man accused of sexually assaulting Japanese tourist in Niagara Falls

LOCKPORT – Bail was doubled Thursday for Robert E. MacLeod, the Niagara Falls man accused of sexually assaulting a Japanese tourist in Niagara Falls State Park on Christmas night.

MacLeod, 44, of 30th Street, pleaded not guilty to an indictment accusing him of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree assault and two counts of second-degree robbery. One of the robbery counts was deemed a sexually motivated felony, Niagara County Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said.

County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III raised bail to $50,000 and sent MacLeod to Niagara County Jail, despite his contention that being in jail would impede his efforts to hire a new lawyer.

MacLeod, who was arrested by State Park Police on New Year’s Eve, originally posted a $25,000 bail bond. However, at the time, the only charges were a robbery count and misdemeanor assault.

“The sex offense has been added, and the level of the assault has been increased,” Hoffmann said in asking Murphy to set bail at $100,000. Murphy wouldn’t go that high; he did not comment on his reasoning.

Hoffmann had the alleged victim flown from Japan at county expense to testify against MacLeod before a grand jury last month, after MacLeod changed his mind about pleading guilty in Niagara Falls City Court.

His attorney at the time, Michael C. Schmahl, has withdrawn from the case, MacLeod said. Niagara Falls attorney Charles F. Pitarresi stood in for the arraignment, but MacLeod said he’s been in touch with several other lawyers. Murphy ordered him to retain someone by May 31.

MacLeod protested the bail increase. “I’ve made every appearance. I need to work to retain an attorney,” he said. “I don’t have any intention of not coming to court.”

Pitarresi said, “The victim is not in the country. There’s no risk of him encountering that person.” The attorney said he thinks MacLeod, who works for an Amherst collection agency, will be able to post the bail.

Hoffmann told Murphy that MacLeod was seen in Niagara Falls State Park “in the same area where this occurred, five days after the incident.” She said that was “near the Discovery Center and the Maid of the Mist.”

Pitarresi said MacLeod visits the park “on a daily basis. He recreates there. He walks there.”

Hoffmann also told the judge that on April 20, MacLeod allegedly went to a local “establishment” and “harassed a clerk about aiding the Park Police.”

Hoffmann alleged that the incident came about the time the case was presented to the grand jury and might have been an attempt to interfere with a witness.

Pitarresi said no harassment complaint has been filed.

MacLeod has a previous felony conviction, for attempted second-degree forgery in North Tonawanda in 1999, for which he was placed on probation.

He also has been arrested on other occasions, Hoffmann said, citing charges of weapons possession in 2000, assault and harassment in 2011 and falsifying business records in 2012.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com