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Alleged assault victim awarded court costs

James Harris, who says a Philadelphia police officer forced him to perform oral sex on him, was recently awarded $3,067. 29 in court costs.

In a 32-page filing issued Dec. 16, Michael E. Kunz, U.S. Clerk of Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, awarded the money to Harris.

In May 2008, Harris sued Officer Michael A. Paige in federal court, claiming Paige forced him to perform oral sex in a secluded area of Fairmount Park in March 2007.

A Philadelphia judge cleared Paige of any criminal wrongdoing, but in June 2012 a federal jury awarded Harris $165,000 in damages.

The money Kunz awarded to Harris last month will cover witness-attendance expenses, subpoena fees and photocopying costs.

Harris continues to seek about $500,000 in attorneys’ fees from Paige.

But Paige maintains that the city is responsible for any expenses he incurred due to the litigation, according to court records.

Neither side had a comment for this story.

Settlement conference scheduled in bullying case

A settlement conference is scheduled this week in the case of a New Jersey boy who allegedly was pulled from school due to anti-LGBT bullying.

Thomas Vandergrift, a Philadelphia gay man, contends his nephew had to be removed from a Pennsauken public school in 2012 due to pervasive anti-LGBT bullying.

In December 2012, Vandergrift filed a federal suit against the Pennsauken School District and various officials in federal court, seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

The 12-year-old boy, identified in court papers as D.V., suffers from autism, generalized anxiety disorder and a learning disability in math.

Vandergrift also contends that school officials wrongly accused him of child molestation after he advocated for a proper education for his nephew.

In October 2011, the state Department of Children and Families determined that the molestation accusations against Vandergrift were unsubstantiated.

In September 2012, after a separate lawsuit was filed, district officials agreed to pay for D.V.’s education at a private school, where he’s currently enrolled.

The settlement conference is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 9 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider at the U.S. Courthouse in Camden, N.J.

The conference isn’t open to the public, according to a spokesperson for Schneider.

GLAAD supports Morris probe

GLAAD, a national LGBT media-advocacy group, recently endorsed a probe of the Nizah Morris case.

“Yes, GLAAD supports a state probe [of the Morris case],” said Ross Murray, director of news for GLAAD. “We wrote about Nizah’s case back in April, and we would be happy to do an update, or something that brings this to the attention of the media.”

Morris, 47, was a transgender woman who became a homicide victim in 2002, shortly after entering a Philadelphia police vehicle. The case remains unsolved.

In April, the city’s Police Advisory Commission recommended state and federal probes, citing an “appalling” local investigation.

Murray also said GLAAD has agreed to sign on to a letter to state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, urging her to investigate the Morris case.

The Justice for Nizah Committee is gathering support from other organizations for a state probe of the Morris case.

J4N will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 13 at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. n

— Tim Cwiek

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