News Briefing Feb. 27-March 5, 2015

News Briefing Feb. 27-March 5, 2015

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Judge declines to dismiss cop case

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Linda A. Carpenter last week denied the city’s request to dismiss an anti-bias lawsuit filed by Officer N. Melville Jones.

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

He claims that a supervisor outed him throughout the Philadelphia Police Department, and that it triggered pervasive harassment and discrimination against him.

The city argued that Jones’ case lacks merit and that Jones failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit.

Carpenter presided over oral arguments Jan. 28. Her one-page ruling allowing the case to move forward was issued Feb. 18.

“We’re pleased with the outcome, and are confident going forward to trial in April,” said Barak A. Kassutto, an attorney for Jones.

A non-jury trial is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 28 in Courtroom 243 of City Hall, with Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox presiding.

Another setback for death-row inmate

Last week, the entire Third Circuit Court of Appeals declined to consider Frank R. Chester’s request to void his remaining convictions in the murder of Anthony Milano.

Chester and Richard R. Laird escorted Milano out of a Bucks County tavern in December 1987 and kidnapped him to a nearby wooded area. Upon their arrival, Chester pushed and kicked Milano. Then, Laird hacked out Milano’s throat with a box cutter.

Milano was gay, and prosecutors called it an antigay hate crime, though there were no hate-crime protections in place for the LGBT community.

In 1988, Chester and Laird were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. But Chester’s first-degree murder conviction was voided in 2011, due to improper jury instructions by the trial judge.

Chester wants his remaining convictions voided — including second-degree murder and kidnapping — on the basis that his trial attorney had a conflict of interest.

The conflict-of-interest claim stems from a pending DUI charge against the attorney in Bucks County at the time of Chester’s 1988 trial.

In January, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit rejected Chester’s request to void his convictions. Chester then asked all 13 judges on the court to review his case.

On Feb. 18, it was announced that a majority of the 13 judges voted to deny Chester’s request for review.

Chester has 90 days to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review. His attorneys had no comment.

Stephen B. Harris, chief of appeals for Bucks County, said he was pleased with the Third Circuit’s decision.

Harris said a decision on whether to retry Chester for first-degree murder hasn’t been made.

“We did not think Mr. Chester’s petition for rehearing before the entire Third Circuit had a realistic chance of being granted,” Harris told PGN. “We’re pleased that the court has dismissed it. Mr. Chester will stay on death row until this is ultimately decided.”

DUI sentencing postponed

The DUI sentencing for Richard Patterson has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts.

On May 11, 2002, around 2:30 a.m., Patterson allegedly sideswiped another vehicle on the 900 block of Walnut Street. Last month, Patterson was convicted of DUI. The only witness against Patterson was Elizabeth Skala, his arresting officer.

In December 2002, Skala gave Nizah Morris a Center City “courtesy ride.” Shortly after the ride, the trans woman was found by passing motorists with a fractured skull. Her homicide remains unsolved.

Municipal Judge Craig M. Washington was scheduled to sentence Patterson on Feb. 23.

The new sentencing date is 10 a.m. March 13 in Courtroom 603 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert St.

In a prior interview, defense attorney Michael L. Doyle said an appeal in Common Pleas Court is likely, and the Morris incident may be raised at that time.

Patterson faces up to two years in jail, and a $5,000 fine.

— Timothy Cwiek

Business scholarship accepting applications

Two of the area’s LGBT-business organizations are teaming up again for their annual student scholarship and, thanks to a new sponsor, the award amount has more than doubled from last year.

The Independent Business Alliance and the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, in partnership with LinguiSearch, Inc., will award a $2,500 academic scholarship to an LGBT or ally undergraduate student enrolled in a business-related program in the region.

To be eligible, applicants must identify as LGBT or allies, be enrolled full-time at an accredited college or university in the greater Philadelphia region, be working towards an undergraduate degree in a business program/major and be able to demonstrate leadership roles.

For more information, call DVLF executive director Samantha Giusti at 215-563-6417 ext. 117 or IBA executive administrator Tom Cavanaugh at 215-557-0190.

The application deadline is March 16. The winner will be announced April 8. To download the application or for more information, visit

Clinic helps prepare legal forms

Certain legal documents can ensure that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone, but where do you begin?

The folks at the LGBT Elder Initiative and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania can help answer that question at their free LGBT Legal Clinic March 14 at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.

The clinic will provide the opportunity to meet one on one with an attorney who can help you complete a will and living will, as well as determine medical and financial powers of attorney and disposition of remains. Certain restrictions apply.

Participants must register in advance if they plan to meet with an attorney.

To register or for more information, contact the LGBTEI at 215-550-1460 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Local synagogue hosts annual concert

Enjoy and experience an eclectic variety of music from various places of faith in and around the Philadelphia area at Congregation Mishkan Shalom’s annual fundraising concert.

Sounds of Justice & Peace will take place 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at 4101 Freeland Ave. Tickets for the concert are $36. Tickets to a pre-concert meet-and-greet with the musicians, which includes reserved seating at the concert, are $72.

The concert will feature singers from the Masjidullah Mosque of West Oak Lane, the City Lights Church Band, Makelat Micha’el: Mishkan Community Choir, Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein, Hazzan Jack Kessler, Father Kirk Berlenbach from St. Timothy’s Church and many more.

To purchase tickets and for more information, visit

— Ryan Kasley

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