News Briefing: Apr. 3-9, 2015

News Briefing: Apr. 3-9, 2015

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Trial delayed for former Colours director

A trial slated to start last week for the former executive director of The Colours Organization, Inc., who is accused of stealing money from the organization, has been postponed.

Ralph Godbolt was scheduled to stand trial March 26 but the case was preempted until April 13. At that hearing, a judge will consider a request from Godbolt’s defense team for a “possible nontrial disposition.”

Godbolt was hired as executive director of Colours, an LGBT people-of-color organization, in the spring of 2012. He was arrested in January 2014 for offenses that allegedly occurred June 20, 2012, from the organization. The total amount in question is unclear.

Godbolt faces charges of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property and theft by failure to make the required dispositions of funds received.

— Jen Colletta

School district seeks protective order

Pennsauken School District officials last week asked a federal judge to issue a protective order in the case of Thomas Vandergrift.

Vandergrift, an openly gay teacher, filed suit against the district in 2012, after officials allegedly accused him of child molestation. 

Vandergrift contends the accusations were retaliatory, after he advocated for a proper education for his autistic nephew.

Citing breach-of-confidentiality concerns, district officials refuse to turn over additional discovery items to Vandergrift until a protective order is issued.

Meanwhile, discovery items will be provided to U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider, according to court records.

District officials also want Schneider to restrain Vandergrift “from making further extrajudicial statements through any public or electronic means.”

Schneider is expected to consider the requests during a hearing set for 2 p.m. April 14 in Courtroom 3C of the U.S. Courthouse in Camden.

Vandergrift said the molestation accusations are false, and he has a right to defend his reputation.

“I have a First Amendment right to speak out about the atrocities and hellish ordeal the Pennsauken School District has put us through,” he told PGN. “I will not be silenced. Vindication is very important to me and my family.”

Man sentenced for DUI

Richard Patterson has been sentenced to 48 hours in jail for his recent DUI conviction. But with credit for time already served, he’ll avoid additional incarceration if he accepts the sentence.

On May 11, 2002, around 2:30 a.m., Patterson allegedly sideswiped another vehicle on the 900 block of Walnut Street.

In January 2015, 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 Court Judge Craig M. Washington imposed the sentence on March 24. He also imposed fines and restitution costs on Patterson totaling $800.

Defense attorney Michael L. Doyle said his client hadn’t yet decided whether to appeal in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. He has 30 days to make the decision.

Patterson faced a maximum of two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Judge assigned to Morris case

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Nina Wright Padilla will consider PGN’s open-records request for complete dispatch records in the Nizah Morris case.

Morris was a transgender woman found with a fatal head injury in 2002, shortly after she received a “courtesy ride” from Philadelphia police.

PGN is seeking complete dispatch records for a vehicle stop initiated by Officer Elizabeth Skala while she was assigned to handle Morris, who was inebriated.

PGN initially requested the dispatch records from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in October 2009. The request was denied on the basis that the records are confidential in nature, if they exist.

The paper’s pending request for the records was filed with the D.A.’s Office in June 2014.

If the matter isn’t resolved, the D.A.’s Office has until May 6 to file a reply brief. Padilla is expected to preside over arguments later this year.

— Timothy Cwiek



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