News briefing Nov. 14-21, 2014

News briefing Nov. 14-21, 2014

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Oral arguments set in Milano case

Oral arguments are scheduled for January in the case of Anthony Milano, a Bucks County gay man who was brutally slashed to death in 1987.

Richard R. Laird and Frank R. Chester originally were convicted of first-degree murder and related offenses in the grisly crime.

But federal judges have voided their first-degree murder convictions, and Chester wants his remaining convictions voided as well.

Chester claims his trial attorney served him ineffectively, partly because the attorney had a pending DUI charge while representing him.

Oral arguments on Chester’s request are scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 13 on the 19th floor of the U.S. Court House, 601 Market St.

Judges Thomas L. Ambro, Thomas M. Hardiman and Kent A. Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will preside.

Each side will have 20 minutes to present their arguments, according to court records.

Bucks County prosecutor Stephen B. Harris expressed optimism about the case.

“We believe that Mr. Chester’s conviction for second-degree murder and all lesser charges will be affirmed,” Harris told PGN. “Assuming that happens, we will then retry Mr. Chester for capital first-degree murder.”

Daniel A. Silverman, an attorney for Chester, had no comment for this report.

Laird’s request for a new trial remains pending in state Supreme Court.

Laird, 51, and Chester, 46, remain on death row in state prisons.


Judge orders records released in bullying case

A federal judge has ordered the Pennsauken School District to release personnel records requested by Thomas Vandergrift, a gay man who says his nephew experienced pervasive anti-LGBT bullying while a student in the district.

Vandergrift also claims that district employees retaliated against him for complaining about the alleged bullying by accusing him of molesting his nephew.

In December 2012, Vandergrift filed suit in federal court, and a jury trial is expected sometime next year.

After an 80-minute hearing on Oct. 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider said district officials must turn over the personnel records requested by Vandergrift.

Prior to the ruling, district officials had refused to turn over the records, claiming they’re “confidential and proprietary.”

In his ruling, Schneider also stated that “given the age of the case, all fact discovery shall be completed by March 31, 2015.”

He said an extension of that deadline will be granted only if “manifest injustice will result” without an extension.


Cop’s reimbursement request still pending

Officer Michael Paige’s request for almost $200,000 from the city to reimburse him for legal fees in a sexual-assault case remains pending in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

James Harris accused Paige of sexually assaulting him in a secluded area of Fairmount Park in 2007. Although Paige was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, a federal jury in 2012 awarded Harris $165,000 in damages.

Paige contends the city should have defended him during his federal trial. He’s seeking $189,995.91 from the city to cover his private attorney’s legal fees.

But city attorneys say sexual assault isn’t within the scope of a police officer’s employment duties. Thus, Paige isn’t entitled to reimbursement from the city for his legal fees.

In March 2014, Common Pleas Judge Jacqueline F. Allen held a hearing on Paige’s request. By presstime this week, the judge hadn’t yet issued a ruling.

 City attorney Sean Kirby said he’s waiting for Allen’s ruling and had no additional comment.


— Timothy Cwiek


Expo on holistic health

A holistic health event called the Mind Body Spirit Expo is coming to Valley Forge Casino Resort.

Attend exhibits, lectures and workshops presented by special guest speakers, including Dan Millman, author of the “Peaceful Warrior” series, spiritual educator Gail Thanray, reconnective healing expert Dr. Eric Pearl and more Nov. 21-23.

Hours for the expo are 4-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a special three-hour workshop with legendary yoga master Sri Dharma Mittra, as well as other free yoga and QiGong classes throughout the weekend.

Now in its 18th year, the Mind Body Spirit Expo is the largest natural health and human-potential expo in the Northeast.

For more information or to register, visit  


Camp out for youth

Change Philly Today is hosting two back-to-back events to help raise funds and awareness for LGBT homeless youth.

Starting at 6 p.m. Nov. 20, supporters will spend the night at JFK Plaza in front of City Hall to experience what it’s like to be homeless. Then, from 6-9 p.m. Nov. 21, a silent auction will be held at William Way LGBT Community Center to raise funds for the agency’s work on behalf of LGBT youth. The event will include a social hour, hors d’oeuvres and a 50/50 raffle.

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


— Ryan Kasley


Site launched to honor Gloria Casarez

A website has been launched where friends can remember the city’s late director of LGBT affairs, Gloria Casarez.

Visitors to can purchase “What Would Gloria Do” pins and T-shirts memorializing her. All the proceeds will be donated to the Gloria Casarez Scholarship Fund at West Chester University, Casarez’s alma mater.

Casarez died Oct. 19 from breast cancer. She helmed Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs for six years, previously served as executive director of GALAEI and worked at a number of other local LGBT social-justice organizations.


— Jen Colletta

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