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London street preachers sought by police on near year-long arrest warrant: court documents

FILE - Steven Ravbar and Matthew Carapella make their way into provincial offences court on April 15, 2019. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

London’s notorious, so-called street preachers, known to residents for their years of headline-grabbing antics at city street corners, have been sought by London police for nearly a year after they were no-shows in court, 980 CFPL has learned.

Matthew Carapella, 35, and Steven Ravbar, 53, were scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 10, 2020 in relation to a mischief charge that had been laid jointly against them the previous year, however they failed to attend, according to court documents.

A bench warrant was issued for their arrest as a result, which remains active as of this week. The documents list no further court dates for Carapella or Ravbar after Nov. 10.

The pair were criminally charged after police allege they entered Elmwood Presbyterian Church on the morning of April 7, 2019 and began yelling at female parishioners during a church service.

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The church’s reverend, Andrew Fullerton, told 980 CFPL at the time that two men entered the church, sat near the back, and began shouting after the sermon.

“They were saying disparaging things to me and about me — that I was an imposter, a fraud and an actor. The other thing they said was some disparaging things about women,” Fullerton said.

Steven Ravbar (left) and Matthew Carapella in downtown London in 2019. Eric Scott / Submitted

Carapella and Ravbar are well-known to Londoners for spouting their religious beliefs on street corners, including in London’s downtown core, often allegedly targeting women based on their hairstyle and clothing.

Local media outlets have previously reported that the pair’s preachings appear to be modelled after the recorded sermons of the late William Branham, an ultra-conservative U.S. doomsday evangelist who died in 1965.

According to a CBC London report from 2017, Branham led a controversial post-Second World War Pentecostal movement dubbed Latter Rain. Carapella told the outlet in an interview that Ravbar introduced him to Branham’s sermons.

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Branham often berated women in his sermons, frequently describing them as “instruments of Satan,” and comparing them to “dogs” and “hogs,” the CBC reported.

London police confirmed Tuesday that Carapella and Ravbar had active warrants out for their arrest. Court documents show the bench warrant was given to police on Nov. 16, 2020. Police have not issued any public notices that either one is the subject of arrest warrants.

“We do not normally put out a media release for fail to attend court warrants as the media office is not necessarily notified about them,” police spokesperson Const. Scott Mandich said in an email Tuesday.

“It is also not practical to put out a media release … for every person who has outstanding warrants in the City of London.”

The criminal matter was slated to go to trial in late May of 2020, with Carapella and Ravbar representing themselves, however the date was vacated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the suspension of all criminal trials and preliminary inquiries in the province.

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The pair were also set to argue during a pre-trial charter applications hearing in April 2020 that the mischief count violated their charter rights, according to the London Free Press. However, the hearing did not proceed as planned because of COVID-19.

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Court documents suggest the last time Carapella and Ravbar attended court was on Feb. 18, 2020, just prior to the pandemic. It should be noted, however, that during the pandemic, from March 16, 2020 to Nov. 27, 2020, Ontario courts were directed to automatically adjourn criminal case management matters to a later date in the absence of the accused. It’s not clear, however, why the pair’s no-show on Nov. 10 prompted a bench warrant instead of an adjournment.

Click to play video: 'Two men arrested after shouting hateful comments to women at Queen’s University'
Two men arrested after shouting hateful comments to women at Queen’s University

Carapella is also the subject of a separate bench warrant that was issued in February 2021 after he failed to appear in court for a charge of mischief that was laid in April of 2020, according to court documents.

That charge stems from an incident in which two women were allegedly yelled at by a man as they practised yoga in their Raymond Avenue driveway, according to police, who noted at the time that the man continued to yell at the women even after officers arrived.

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Carapella and Ravbar are neighbours of the two women, according to court documents.

The documents suggest Carapella failed to appear for court on Dec. 14, 2020, resulting in a bench summons being issued. Carapella then failed to appear at his subsequent court date on Feb. 1, prompting the bench warrant, which remains active.

The two are also facing criminal charges in connection with an incident near the campus of Queen’s University in Kingston in January 2020, which saw them jointly charged with one count each of “causing a disturbance by shouting insulting language” and “harassment by threatening conduct to other person,” according to court documents.

According to reporting published at the time by the Queen’s Journal, the university’s student-run newspaper, Carapella and Ravbar allegedly stood on a street corner near the school and disparaged women who walked past them, “calling them ‘whores’ and telling them they should wear ‘long, loose-fitting skirts,’” the report said.

An unendorsed bench warrant is currently active for Carapella and Ravbar in relation to the Kingston matter, after the pair failed to appear in court on Nov. 2, 2020, court documents show. Both were representing themselves, and at a pre-pandemic court appearance said they intended to plead not guilty to the charges, according to the Queen’s Journal.

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Carapella and Ravbar also ran into trouble with the law in the southern U.S. in 2018, according to CBC London. The public broadcaster reported in February 2018 that the two had been charged with “remaining after forbidden” after being arrested in Shreveport, La. Few details are known, but Ravbar told the CBC that they paid a fine and were let go.

Around the same time, in January 2018, local media in South Carolina reported that Carapella and Ravbar had been the subject of a warning from the Oconee County sheriff after they allegedly entered a church near Townville, S.C., on three occasions and disrupted services.

“A patrol request has been put in for this church and they have also reportedly been causing some problems in some churches in Georgia as well,” the notice from the sheriff’s office said, according to an article by WYFF, a local NBC affiliate in Greenville, S.C. No further information was provided about the alleged incidents in Georgia.

Other area churches were told to be aware of Carapella and Ravbar, and were advised to contact local law enforcement if they attended church and caused problems, the notice said.

Both also remain the subject of unresolved charges under the city’s nuisance bylaw that were laid between Feb. 5, 2019 and April 6, 2019.

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Carapella and Ravbar each face 18 counts of, “in a public place, unnecessarily interfere with another person’s use and enjoyment of the public place by using abusive or insulting language,” according to the city.

The municipal charges came after city officials received dozens of complaints about the pair from members of the public for allegedly using abusive language at passersby, mostly women, and often invoking religious language.

The city had amended its nuisance bylaw the year before, making it illegal to use abusive or insulting language when it prevents people from enjoying public spaces.

In an email Tuesday, Orest Katolyk, London’s chief municipal law enforcement officer, said the file from 2019 remained active and before provincial offences court.

“Since the mischief charge issued by (London police) in April 2020, there have been no further charges issued under the City’s Public Nuisance Bylaw by Municipal Law Enforcement Officers,” he said, declining to comment further.

The municipal charges were expected to go to trial in March of 2020 but did not proceed due to the pandemic. The trial has yet to be rescheduled. Both had previously pleaded not guilty and were representing themselves, according to a report by CTV London in 2019.

An official with the city clerk’s office said Wednesday that Carapella and Ravbar were last scheduled to appear in provincial offences court on Sept. 27, 2021 but the matter was adjourned to Dec. 6 as no one appeared.

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Click to play video: 'Counter protesters clash with Toronto anti-gay preacher in Vancouver'
Counter protesters clash with Toronto anti-gay preacher in Vancouver

980 CFPL attempted to contact Carapella and Ravbar for comment but was unsuccessful.

Court documents list Carapella and Ravbar as residing at the same Raymond Street address, however it’s unclear if they are still living there or whether they are even in London.

There was no answer when a 980 CFPL reporter knocked on the front door of the address on Wednesday afternoon. City records list the home as being owned by one Rudolph Ravbar.

Two messages left with a London phone number purportedly belonging to Steven Ravbar, listed on an online phone directory, were not returned by publishing time.

According to the London Free Press, Ravbar was at one point an elementary school teacher. A listing for Ravbar on the Ontario College of Teachers’ online database shows him as retired as of 2012.

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A former student of Ravbar’s, Carapella is the son of Joe Carapella, president of Tricar Group, a prominent London developer. 980 CFPL reached out to Carapella’s father for comment or information on the pair’s whereabouts but did not receive a response by publishing time.

980 CFPL also reached out to Adam Carapella, Tricar’s vice-president, who declined to comment.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Carapella and Ravbar is asked to come forward to London police.

–with files from Andrew Graham, Liny Lamberink and Jacquelyn LeBel.

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