News briefing Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2014

News briefing Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2014

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Court proceeding slated in Williams case

Formal charges against Charles N. Sargent were scheduled to be presented to his attorney this week during a brief court proceeding.

Sargent stands accused of brutally murdering and dismembering transwoman Diamond Williams on July 14, 2013.

Sargent says he killed Williams in self-defense after she performed oral sex on him inside his Strawberry Mansion residence.

He says Williams tried to force him to pay a pre-arranged fee of $40, which he refused to do because Williams was anatomically male.

After stabbing Williams to death, Sargent says, he dismembered her corpse and deposited her body parts in a vacant lot.

On Oct. 29, an attorney for Sargent was expected to accept formal charges against Sargent, which include murder, abuse of corpse and possessing an instrument of crime.

Sargent remains incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia. He wasn’t expected to attend the court proceeding.

“The court proceeding is an important step in the process, because Mr. Sargent has to be formally notified of the charges against him,” said Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey W. MacArthur. “But he’s not expected to appear, and he’s not required to enter a plea until shortly before trial.”


Prosecutors oppose new trial in Shephard case

Delaware County prosecutors have filed a 56-page brief in opposition to a new trial for William F. Smithson.

In November 2008, Smithson was convicted of killing coworker Jason Shephard.

But Smithson maintains his innocence, and his request for a new trial remains pending in state Superior Court.

Prosecutors say Smithson, who is gay, tried to rape Shephard prior to strangling him.

But Smithson says his trial attorney didn’t adequately investigate F. Bruce Covington, who also was inside Smithson’s house when Shephard was strangled.

But in their Oct. 16 reply brief, prosecutors stress that Smithson, not covington, strangled Shephard.

The brief also contends that Smithson’s trial attorney adequately investigated Covington, who was eventually charged with drug-related offenses stemming from the incident.

Rob Nardello, a staunch advocate for Smithson, said Smithson merits a new trial.

“There was a dead body and only one of two suspects was presented as the murderer,” Nardello told PGN. “The jury was given no other option but to convict Smithson. Someone was guilty, and for some unknown reason, the judge and district attorney’s office decided that it wasn’t Covington.”

Smithson, 49, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He remains incarcerated at a state prison in Huntingdon.


— Timothy Cwiek


Gayborhood attack goes to trial

The two men accused of attacking another man in the Gayborhood near Voyeur nightclub last fall will face trial next week.

Miguel Maldonado and Matthew Morris have both been charged with aggravated and simple assault, conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person in the November 2013 attack. The trial begins 9 a.m. Nov. 5 in Room 904 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1300 Filbert St.

The victim, Nick Forte, a former PGN employee, suffered broken eye sockets and cheekbones, a broken nose, other facial fractures and a broken rib after he was allegedly struck in the back of the head with a flashlight and then beaten while he was unconscious on the ground. Security cameras captured the incident.

Morris was a Voyeur patron and Maldonado was a bouncer at the club; he has since been let go from his position.


— Ryan Kasley


Wedding expo focuses on same-sex couples

Say I Do! wedding-expo company will stage an event geared towards local same-sex couples looking to tie the knot from 1-4 p.m. Nov. 2 at 1717 Arch St., 51st floor.

The event will feature an array of wedding-related vendors as well as interactive activities and games.

Single tickets are $8 or $12 for a couple. Group tickets for four are available for $20. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit


— Jen Colletta

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