News briefing Feb. 13-19, 2015

News briefing Feb. 13-19, 2015

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Alleged gay bashers back in court

The trio accused of attacking a gay couple this fall were back in court last Thursday.

Kathryn Knott, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams appeared at the Criminal Justice Center for a pretrial conference.

The largely administrative hearing resulted in all three being scheduled for a pretrial bring back 9 a.m. March 12 before Common Pleas Judge Frank Palumbo. The proceeding was initially scheduled before Senior Judge Harold M. Kane but was moved.

“Today was just a status of discovery,” explained assistant district attorney Michael Barry. “They take a couple listings to make sure everybody have the same paperwork. We still have to pass a few more videos that weren’t copied but nothing major, so it got another date.”

Knott, Harrigan and Williams face aggravated and simple assault, conspiracy and reckless endangerment charges in connected with the Sept. 11 attack on Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught.

At a pretrial bring back, a defendant will usually accept a plea deal or be scheduled for trial.

Barry said that there “have been no plea discussions” at this time.

Once the discovery period is finished, Barry said, the case will be assigned to a trial room, where attorneys will decide on a trial date.

— Jen Colletta

 

Cabela’s won’t refute amicus brief

 

Cabela’s Retail Inc., which is being sued by trans woman Kate L. Blatt, won’t refute an amicus brief submitted by six LGBT advocacy groups on behalf of Blatt.

The amicus brief was submitted on Jan. 23. But so far, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl hasn’t stated whether he’ll accept the brief for consideration.

In a Feb. 5 court filing, Cabela’s said it won’t take a position on the merits of the brief, and won’t oppose Schmehl’s acceptance of it.

Blatt claims job discrimination by Cabela’s. The store, located in Hamburg, specializes in outdoor sports items. Blatt worked there as a seasonal stocker between September 2006 and March 2007.

Blatt alleges that Cabela’s discriminated against her due to her disability, when denying her access to a female restroom.

Part of Blatt’s federal lawsuit challenges the Americans with Disabilities Act’s exclusion of gender-identity disorder as a protected disability. The ADA protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in private employment, public accommodations and governmental services.

Blatt contends that Congress acted unconstitutionally in 1989 when excluding GID as a protected disability under the ADA.

The amicus brief argues that even if GID’s exclusion is constitutional, it doesn’t extend to gender dysphoria, which is what Blatt suffered while working at Cabela’s.

The groups that submitted the amicus brief are Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Mazzoni Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force and Transgender Law Center.

“The amicus brief raises an important argument that — if accepted by the court — could have far-reaching, beneficial effects for the transgender community,” said Brian C. Farrell, an attorney for Blatt. “The law will be clear that people with gender dysphoria will have a right to utilize the ADA when seeking legal redress for workplace discrimination.”

 

Cop-case trial set for April

The case of N. Melville Jones, an openly gay Philadelphia police officer who alleges pervasive anti-LGBT workplace bias, is scheduled for a non-jury trial in April.

Jones filed suit against the city in 2013, seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages.

The officer claims that a former supervisor, C. Daniel Castro, outed him throughout the police department, which triggered pervasive harassment and discrimination against him.

On Feb. 9, Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox presided over a settlement conference in the case, but no settlement was reached.

An exact date and time for the trial wasn’t specified at presstime.

Castro is expected to testify during the trial via a remote hook-up. He’s currently incarcerated at a federal prison due to an extortion conviction in an unrelated matter.

— Timothy Cwiek

 

HRC chapter to stage fundraising concert

Human Rights Campaign’s Philadelphia chapter is putting on its first-ever benefit concert to raise funds and awareness for equal rights throughout the Delaware Valley.

Equality Rocks Philadelphia will take place 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Pub Webb, 1527 Cecil B. Moore Ave., near Temple University. The concert will feature up-and-coming acts The Burgeoning, Kriss Mincey, Crystal Cheatham, Kellyn Marie Goler and more.  Following the performance, DJ G33K will spin tracks for the after-party. 

Tickets are $10 in advance online or $15 at the door; in addition to covering admission, the ticket includes an HRC annual membership or membership renewal.

For more information, visit Equality Rocks Philadelphia’s Facebook page. To purchase tickets, visit action.hrc.org.

— Ryan Kasley


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