Harrisburg, PA – After a social media firestorm erupted over a rape report at Harrisburg’s HMAC, a serial rapist has now been arrested and charged in two similar rape cases.
Michael Ray Wright, 33, who was accused of raping a woman after meeting her outside the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center in July now faces a second set of rape charges almost identical to the first. He was charged Tuesday with felony rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and sexual assault, as well as misdemeanor indecent assault without consent and terroristic threats.
HMAC owner John Traynor has been at the center of the scandal ever since the initial reports were publicly published on Facebook by the HMAC rape victim. She posted pictures of her bruised face a couple of days after the assault occurred. Mr. Traynor was immediately criticized for his reaction to the report as being more concerned about the reputation of himself and the club, while showing little empathy for the victim who is still recovering from the violent rape. Some details of the victim’s story have been disputed by police and Traynor, however an array of other victims have since come forward to share their personal horror stories of being drugged and/ or assaulted at the arts center/ night club. Other accusers have identified Traynor for inappropriate sexual conduct over the years.
While Traynor maintains the innocence of himself and HMAC, in response to the extreme allegations of drugging in the club they have now made readily available test strips located behind the bar that will detect date rape drugs. Patrons using the test strips can identify if drugs have been slipped into their drink. Some locals and business owner have accepted this policy as a solid response to the scandal. His more critical opponents find it to be confirmation that a drugging problem does exist at the club.
Traynor has dismissed the allegations as false accusations made by disgruntled business associates and ex-employees. He also suggested the false narrative might be the work of a marketing scheme by a competing local night club venue. “This is Harrisburg’s very own ‘Pizza Gate.’ You remember Pizza Gate?” Traynor said, referring to the disproven account of predatory pedophilia aimed at top Democrats during the 2016 election.
Traynor says the mass of allegations and buzz on social media has hurt his business and tarnished his personal reputation. Bands booked for shows at HMAC suddenly cancelled.
Dozens of accusations have recently been made by patrons of the club over the last 9 years, although the checks of Harrisburg police records dating back years turned up no criminal charges related to women being drugged or sexually assaulted at HMAC. One previous alleged rape victim claims that she reported to Harrisburg police, but her rape kit was never processed, and the police did not follow up with her.
Although countless accusations are suddenly being made with no supporting police reports, it’s hard to ignore the great number of people who are making the allegations, some of which have been confirmed by credible friends and family of the accusers.
As reported by Pennlive, many of the accusations date to the opening of Stage on Herr, the music club side of HMAC that was the facility’s only venue from 2009-14. Traynor appears to confirm some of the alleged misconduct when he described the early years of Stage on Herr as a “hedonistic playground for a subculture that existed in Harrisburg.” And he admits his own conduct in that alcohol-fueled setting was anything but saintly. Yet, he said it was never criminal, nor abusive. “HMAC went through a metamorphosis,” Traynor said. “It changed. And I have changed. I am not the person I was 10 years ago. I have four years’ of sobriety. I’m proud of that.”
In a message to Harrisburg100, Traynor described the accusations as a salacious attempt by a competing local venue to tarnish the reputation of Traynor and HMAC.
Shawn Cooper has been leading an effort to organize the large group of alleged victims and has suggested that a class action lawsuit is in the works.
Famed local author Bill Keisling shared feedback from his friend who contends that there in fact is very much inappropriate activity taking place at the HMAC.