News Briefing: Sept. 12-18, 2014

News Briefing: Sept. 12-18, 2014

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D.A. submits rebuttal in Morris case

On Sept. 4, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office submitted a rebuttal to PGN’s request for key records in the Nizah Morris case.

The paper is seeking complete dispatch records pertaining to a vehicle stop by Officer Elizabeth Skala during the early-morning hours of Dec. 22, 2002.

Shortly before the vehicle stop, Skala gave Morris a Center City “courtesy ride,” and minutes later the transwoman was found with a fatal head wound.

It remains unclear why Skala initiated the unrelated vehicle stop, since she still was assigned to handle Morris, who was extremely intoxicated.

PGN asked the state Office of Open Records to direct the D.A.’s Office to release all dispatch records in its possession pertaining to Skala’s vehicle stop.

In last week’s rebuttal, the D.A.’s Office indicated that it has a responsive record. But the agency didn’t release the record, nor cite legal authority for withholding it.

A decision by the open-records office is expected on or before Oct. 10.

The next meeting of the Justice for Nizah (J4N) committee is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 20 at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.

Extension granted in Whitewood case

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones 3d last week granted an extension until Sept. 29 for plaintiffs in the Whitewood case to file a petition seeking compensation for their legal fees and costs.

Whitewood, decided in May, resulted in marriage equality throughout Pennsylvania.

The plaintiffs seek more than $1 million in compensation from state and Bucks County officials for their legal fees and costs.

According to federal law, prevailing plaintiffs in civil-rights cases are permitted to recoup their legal fees and costs.

But defendants say the plaintiffs are requesting an “exorbitant amount.”

In his Sept. 4 ruling granting the extension, Jones also suggested the parties seek mediation services from a magistrate judge.

Neither side had a comment for this report.

Free documentary to be featured

There will be free viewings next month of the documentary “Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family.”

Loud was the first openly gay person to appear regularly on an American TV show. He died in 2001 at age 50.

The documentary will be screened 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at The Pride Center of New Jersey, 85 Raritan Ave. in Highland Park, N.J.

Another free viewing will take place 12:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Livingston Student Center Coffee House of Rutgers University, 61 Joyce Kilmer Ave. in New Brunswick, N.J.

Walter Newkirk, a friend of Loud’s mother, Pat Loud, will attend both events and introduce the documentary.

Newkirk recently wrote his autobiography, “The Secret Life of Walter Newkirk.” He’s also the author of “memoraBEALEia: A Private Scrapbook about Edie Beale of Grey Gardens.” Additionally, he produced the CD, “Little Edie Live! A Visit To Grey Gardens.”

— Timothy Cwiek

Comedy event takes on women’s rights, voting

Philadelphia will participate in a national awareness-raising event about women’s reproductive rights, and the importance of midterm election voting, later this month.

The “Philadelphia V to Shining V” will take place 1-4 p.m. Sept. 27 at Howl at the Moon, 258 S. 15th St. The effort is being led by, an initiative started by “The Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead to use comedy to raise awareness about ongoing reproductive-rights struggles. “V to Shining V” gatherings will take place in cities across the country that day. Philly’s event will feature Allentown native and CNN contributor Sally Kohn, MSNBC contributor and Philly resident Professor Anthea Butler, Philly native and comedian Peggy O’Leary, comedian Sharron Paul and emcee J. Rudy Flesher.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at

E. Passyunk group launches fundraising effort

Residents and supporters of the increasingly LGBT-centric East Passyunk Square neighborhood will gather to celebrate and plan for the proposed redesign of Columbus Square Park from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 12 at the green rooftop garden atop Wharton Lofts, 1148 Wharton St.

The park is in the midst of a redesign that includes the addition of more green space, a multi-purpose playing field, storm-water run-off conservation, a revamped playground area, dog parks and picnic areas. At the event, organizers will unveil the new park website and logo and the slogan for the fundraising campaign to support the plan, which has an expected price tag of nearly $3 million.

Tickets are $25 and will feature wine and beer, food from many venues along East Passyunk Avenue and performances by cellist Eve Miller and saxophonist Mark Brown.

For more information or tickets, visit Tickets can be purchased in advance by check at 1200 Wharton St. or can be reserved and paid for at the door by cash, check or credit card by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

— Jen Colletta


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