News Briefing July 24-30, 2015

News Briefing July 24-30, 2015

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Storytelling event engages men of color 

Local men of color are encouraged to share their experiences next weekend through "BEyond Expectations: Engaging Males of Color."


First Person Arts will join with the city's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) for the event, July 31 at Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. Among the storytellers leading the session is Christian Axavier Lovehall, who will share his experiences navigating society as a transgender man of color.

A pre-event reception kicks off the event from 7-8 p.m., followed by the event, which runs until 10 p.m. Tickets are $15.

For more information, visit 

— Jen Colletta

Rape case to be adjudicated in state court

Charles Gibson, who’s accused of raping Reginald Stewart two years ago, has agreed to have the dispute adjudicated in state court.

In a recent filing, Gibson withdrew his request to have the case adjudicated in federal court.

Both men were students at the University of Pennsylvania when the rape allegedly occurred. According to Stewart, Gibson raped him in January 2013, after they attended a rush party sponsored by Phi Kappa Psi, a Penn fraternity.

Stewart filed suit against Gibson and the fraternity in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, seeking $450,000 in damages.

But attorneys for Gibson contended that federal court was the proper venue for the case. 

This week, Alan E. Denenberg, an attorney for Stewart, reiterated his belief that the case belongs in state court.

“There was no basis to remove this case to federal court,” Denenberg told PGN. “It will now be decided by a Philadelphia jury of Mr. Stewart’s peers.”

In court papers, Gibson acknowledged that both men consumed alcohol at the frat party, but said their subsequent sexual activities were consensual.

Jeffrey N. Kale, an attorney for Gibson, had no comment for this update.

Gay inmate seeks removal from solitary confinement 

Kenneth J. Houck Jr., an openly gay inmate who was assaulted while reading an LGBT novel, has asked a federal magistrate to order his removal from solitary confinement.

Houck has been in solitary confinement at a federal prison in Colorado for more than 100 days, according to a recent court filing. He has extremely limited out-of-cell time, and contends his medical needs aren’t being addressed adequately.

Houck also claims his placement in solitary confinement is due to retaliation for a lawsuit he recently filed against the federal Bureau of Prisons.

But on July 16, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher declined to order Houck’s release to the general prison population. The judge said Houck’s request wasn’t filed in the correct legal format.

Houck, 40, also seeks a transfer to a federal prison closer to his family on the East Coast.

In 2011, two inmates at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia entered Houck’s cell and assaulted him, causing multiple fractures to his right leg.

That same year, Houck pleaded guilty to one count of transporting child pornography. His scheduled release date is May 18, 2018, according to prison records.

Ed Ross, a spokesperson for the federal BOP, had no comment for this update.

Final deadline set in rape case

The state Superior Court has given Jeffrey J. Marsalis a final deadline of July 31 to file an appellate brief in his quest for a new trial.

Marsalis sexually assaulted two women in Philadelphia before going to Idaho and raping a lesbian. He wants a new trial for his Philadelphia convictions, citing ineffective assistance of counsel.

Marsalis allegedly sedated his victims with a date-rape drug prior to sexually assaulting them. He denies the allegations.

Marsalis has applied for several deadline extensions for his appellate brief, citing insufficient paperwork from local authorities.

On July 10, state Superior Court set a final deadline of July 31 for Marsalis’ brief.

Marsalis, 42, remains incarcerated at a state prison in Marienville. His scheduled release date is Jan. 17, 2017. Then, he must begin serving a 14-year prison sentence in Idaho for raping a lesbian in that state, according to court records.

Judge assigned to Williams case

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Lillian H. Ransom will preside over the Diamond Williams murder trial, according to court records.

Williams was a local transgender woman allegedly stabbed to death by Charles N. Sargent in July 2013.

Sargent allegedly invited Williams to his Strawberry Mansion residence during the early-morning hours of July 14, 2013. He told police he stabbed Williams in self-defense after she demanded a pre-arranged payment of $40 for performing oral sex, which he said he refused to pay because she had a penis.

But Sargent seeks suppression of his police statement, contending it was obtained under duress.

A suppression hearing has been set for 10 a.m. Feb. 16 in Courtroom 807 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1315 Filbert St. A one-week jury trial is set to begin March 14 in Room 807 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert St.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen J. Kemp will serve as prosecutor and J. Michael Farrell will serve as defense attorney, according to court records.

Sargent, 45, remains incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia.

— Timothy Cwiek


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