News Briefings

Judge rules on jury questions in Cosby case

A judge this week ruled on a key issue regarding the upcoming trial of comedian Bill Cosby, who stands accused of sexually assaulting a lesbian. 

On Monday, Judge Steven O’Neill decided that the June trial will not be moved out of Montgomery County. Cosby’s defense attorneys had submitted the change-of-venue request, arguing that the intense media scrutiny has biased local jurors. While the proceeding will take place in Norristown, the county seat, prosecutors agreed with the defense request that jurors be drawn from outside of the county. They will also be sequestered during the trial.

Cosby, 79, is charged with the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constad, a former employee of Temple University, at his Elkins Park home. Constad is one of dozens of women who contend Cosby assaulted them over the last several decades, but hers is the only case in which criminal charges were filed.

Prosecutors sought to have more than a dozen of Cosby’s accusers testify during the upcoming trial, but O’Neill ruled last month that only one will be permitted to take the stand.

— Jen Colletta

Applications open for 2017 PNC LGBT Business Award 

A local organization for LGBT professionals is accepting applications for an annual business award.

PNC Bank will sponsor the Independence Business Alliance’s 2017 PNC LGBT Business Award. The program provides a $10,000 award to an IBA member with a business-level membership or higher. 

Among other qualifications, IBA is looking for a member that “demonstrates a well-defined plan for growth, including innovation, sustainability and ongoing contribution to the community.” Interested businesses must submit applications, two letters of recommendation and a mini plan by 5 p.m. April 14. Visit for more information and a link to the full application.

The 2017 PNC LGBT Business Award will be presented at IBA10: 10th Anniversary Celebration 6 p.m. May 10 at the The Downtown Club, 600 Chestnut St.

— Jeremy Rodriguez

Gay inmate seeks legal materials 

Last month, openly gay inmate Kenneth J. Houck Jr. filed a request for access to legal materials so that he could pursue his wrongful-injury claims against the federal Bureau of Prisons. 

In November 2011, Houck was brutally assaulted at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. At the time of the assault, Houck was reading an LGBT novel in his cell. 

Houck’s right leg sustained multiple fractures, and he continues to walk with a limp. The inmate is suing the federal Bureau of Prisons for more than $1 million in damages, according to court records.

Houck said his assailants hurled anti-LGBT slurs while assaulting him. However, authorities declined to classify the incident as a hate crime.

In a Jan. 30 federal-court filing, Houck contended he was being denied access to necessary legal materials to help him litigate his claims.

As of presstime, Houck’s request for access to legal materials remained pending with U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya.

Houck, 41, is currently housed at a federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. Imprisoned for transporting child pornography, his scheduled release date is June 23, 2018.

Justin Long, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

— Timothy Cwiek

Dance party returns with fundraising focus

An LGBT dance party will be held this weekend to raise funds from ACT UP Philadelphia. 

“Thermal: AN NSFW Dance Party of Resistance” will be held 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Feb. 25 at an as-yet undisclosed location. After a 10-month hiatus, the NSFW series, which started nearly five years ago, is returning with an enhanced focus on fundraising and community building.

“We’ve been inspired by the countless protests and demonstrations lately,” said Marquise Lee, who started the series with Paul Blore. “Everyone is feeling that they need to resist in whatever way they can, and we believe NSFW is one of the assets that we, personally, can lend to this movement. We’ve always thought of the party as a form of community building, so why not use it to get people together and behind something?”

“I love that there’s been a spike in support for well-known non-profits like ACLU and Planned Parenthood, but I worry about those smaller organizations that are working for the marginalized and for social justice on a local level,” Blore noted about the beneficiary. “How will they be doing in four years?” 

Tickets to “Thermal” are $5, cash only. The party is 18 to enter and 21 to drink. Pre-registration is required at

Registrants will receive an email with the event location Feb. 23.

William Way, Toasted Walnut mark Women’s Day

The community is invited to learn about the multifaceted women’s programming at William Way LGBT Community Center next month.

Toasted Walnut Bar & Kitchen, 1316 Walnut St., is hosting an International Women’s Day Happy Hour 5:30-7:30 p.m. March 8. At the social, guests can get information about the center’s resources and events for women, sign up or renew center membership and network with other community members.

Complimentary fare and drink specials will be available.

— Jen Colletta

Police oversight board’s director resigns

Kelvyn Anderson has resigned as executive director of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, effective Feb. 3. Anderson served as executive director of the agency since 2013.

Security footage requested in Woody’s case

A discovery hearing is scheduled for this week in the case of James Stefanide 2d, who claims he sustained serious injuries while falling on interior stairs at Woody’s Bar in June 2015. 

William Way to host annual meeting 

Representatives of the William Way LGBT Community Center will update the public on the center’s work at the organization’s annual meeting. Additionally, center members can meet and vote for the candidates for board of directors, who will make brief statements and answer questions. 

Police bias case dismissed

A federal appeals court last month ordered a lower court to dismiss the case of Philadelphia Detective Kenneth Rossiter, who claims he was unfairly fired in 2011 due to anti-union bias. 

Run to support homeless

The third-annual Homeless for the Holidays run/walk will take place in South Philadelphia this weekend.

City Council passes diaper-changing bill

On Dec. 1, Philadelphia City Council passed a bill requiring all publicly accessible restrooms in city-owned buildings to have diaper-changing tables. The vote was 16-0, with City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson absent. 

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