News Briefing: August 19-25, 2016

News Briefing: August 19-25, 2016

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Cosby can't re-seal documents related to alleged sexual assault of lesbian

A federal judge ruled Aug. 15 that comedian Bill Cosby can’t re-seal depositions in which he admitted to drugging women and having sex with them.

The documents come from the 2005 civil suit filed by Andrea Constand, the lesbian former employee of Temple University. She alleges Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Cheltenham Township home in 2004.

Cosby’s case is set to move to trial in Montgomery County. District Attorney Kevin Steele charged Cosby with aggravated indecent assault at the end of last year after the depositions had been unsealed.

According to this month’s ruling from federal appeals Judge Thomas Ambro, the documents have already received lots of media attention.

The court’s opinion said, “The contents of the documents are a matter of public knowledge, and we cannot pretend that we could change that fact by ordering them resealed.”

September deadline set for Creating Change proposals

Philadelphians are encouraged to submit workshops for Creating Change, the annual conference hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force.

The conference comes to the city Jan. 18-22 and the deadline to submit a proposal is Sept. 20. Individual activists or organizations can submit workshops.

Creating Change seeks three types of sessions with time limits marked at 90 minutes and three hours for workshops or 60 minutes for caucuses. The topics can cover movement building, grassroots organizing, leadership development, organization building or educational opportunities for leaders in activism.

Instructions for submitting a proposal are available at www.creatingchange.org/submit-proposals.

Le Thomas, president of Philadelphia Black Pride, is the local host committee co-chair responsible for the programming subcommittee.

“Find something that speaks to the city first because it is being hosted here,” Thomas said. “With that, expand on a national and global level.”

Staff from the Task Force will make the final decisions about what workshops are included in the conference. But, Thomas said, “We want to flood them with so many choices that create awareness nationally of what we’re doing here.”

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

He is one of four local co-chairs for the host committee. The others are Naiymah Sanchez, coordinator of the Trans-Health Information Project at GALAEI: A Queer Latin@ Social Justice Organization; Samantha Giusti, executive director of DVLF, an LGBT philanthropy organization; and Aneesah Smith, who works on LGBT services at West Chester University.    

— Paige Cooperstein 

Trial date set in Lynn case

A May trial date has been set in the case of Msgr. William J. Lynn, who's accused of facilitating same-sex child abuse within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The three-day trial is scheduled to begin May 1, with Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright presiding, according to court records.

On July 26, the state Supreme Court denied a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to review a lower-court ruling that vacated Lynn's 2012 conviction for child endangerment. 

On Aug. 2, Lynn was released on $250,000 bail. He'd been serving a three- to six-year prison sentence.

Lynn allegedly facilitated same-sex child sexual abuse while supervising catholic priests in Philadelphia. But last year, when vacating Lynn's conviction, the state Superior Court said too much prejudicial evidence was presented by prosecutors during his trial.

In a statement, the DA's Office said there's "substantial evidence" to establish Lynn's guilt.

But Thomas A. Bergstrom, an attorney for Lynn, said Lynn cannot be resentenced "as he has essentially done his time."

Lynn, 65, served as the Philadelphia archdiocesan secretary for clergy from 1992-2004. He's the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime due to allegedly mishandling sex-abuse allegations.

Oral arguments possible in Rossiter case

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals last week said it's considering holding oral arguments regarding the case of Detective Kenneth Rossiter.

Rossiter, who's investigated several LGBT-related murder cases, claims he was wrongfully fired in July 2012 due to his membership in the Fraternal Order of Police.

When announcing Rossiter's firing, then-Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey accused him of overtime abuses.

An arbitrator ordered Rossiter reinstated nine months later, with full back pay and benefits.

In his federal suit, Rossiter claims his firing was retaliatory, due to his union membership. He's seeking an unspecified amount in damages from the city.

In December, U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh denied the city's request that Rossiter's suit be dismissed. But the city filed an interim appeal with the Third Circuit, seeking the suit's dismissal before it can go to a jury.

In a June 24 filing, the city emphasized that Rossiter's firing didn't violate any of his federal rights as a union member.

In a July 27 letter, the Third Circuit said oral arguments in the dispute may be held on Sept. 29. However, it's not yet definite that oral aguments will be needed.

In 2007, Rossiter helped secure a first-degree murder conviction for Barry Mason, who shot to death Jamil Burton, an openly gay youth, after an alleged robbery in center City. Mason died in prison last year.

Trial date set in bias case

A November trail date has been set in the case of Kathryn L. Waters, who claims she wasn't hired as executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission due to racial bias.

The PHRC doesn't typically accept anti-LGBT bias complaints, though it has investigated anti-trans bias complaints on the basis of alleged sex discrimination.

In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found probably cause that Waters was discriminated against due to her race.

Waters filed a federal suit against PHRC in 2013 and the case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane. In her suit, Waters claims sytemic bias within PHRC caused her to be passed over as executive director in 2011.

Waters is seeking more than $500,000 in damages, according to court records.

A jury trial initially was set to begin Aug. 29. However, due to attorney replacements, a new trial date has been set for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Court House, 228 Walnut St. in Harrisburg.

Planning meeting slated for PhilaVentures

PhilaVentures, an outdoor LGBT-community group, will hold a planning meeting 2 p.m. Aug. 21 at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.

The group, which has operated since the 1980s, is seeking new leadership. Outdoor activities include hiking, biking, walking, camping, canoeing and tubing.

"We urge people who enjoy the outdoors to attend this planning meeting," said S. Joseph Hagenmeyer, an organizer. "PhilaVenture is a wonderful group. It's been a part of the William Way center for many years, and we want to make it thrive again. Not only will you enjoy the benefits of the outdoors, but you'll get to meet other like-minded individuals."

— Timothy Cwiek


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