News Briefing
May 02, 2013 | 332 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deadline issued in church dispute

The Callowhill Neighborhood Association has been given a final deadline of May 17 to file an opening brief in its appeal to preserve the old Church of the Assumption.

The church, formerly owned by the AIDS agency Siloam, is located at 1123-33 Spring Garden St. It was built in 1848, but almost 20 years ago it was closed by the Archdiocese due to a sharp decline in parishioners.

According to court papers, Siloam didn’t have sufficient funds to maintain the church, and it may be in danger of collapse.

Its new owners, John Wei and Mika He, want to demolish the structure.

But in October, CNA filed an appeal in state Commonwealth Court, seeking to block the demolition.

On April 16, the court granted an extension until May 17 for CNA to file its opening brief.

If CNA doesn’t meet the deadline, its appeal will be dismissed, because no more extensions will be granted, according to court records.

Andrew R. Palewski, a CNA member, said CNA will meet the deadline.

Wei and He had no comment at presstime.

Siloam continues to operate in an old Catholic rectory adjacent to the church.

Court ruling pending in Scouts case

Both sides in the eviction case of a local Boy Scouts of America council are waiting for a court ruling before the litigation can proceed.

For several years, the city has been trying to evict the BSA Cradle of Liberty Council from a city-owned facility on 22nd Street near the Ben Franklin Parkway, because the group won’t pay rent nor accept openly gay participants.

But a federal jury blocked the eviction in June 2010.

In April 2012, the city appealed that ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In December, Cradle asked for permission to exceed the word limit for its reply brief from 14,000 words to 21,000 words.

At presstime, the court hadn’t yet ruled on Cradle’s request.

Once the court rules on Cradle’s request, it will have 30 days to file its brief.

The city will have 14 days to respond, if it chooses to.

Then, oral arguments are expected to be held by a three-judge panel, before a decision is rendered.

According to a briefing schedule issued in July, all briefs were expected to be filed by October. However, both sides requested a series of extensions, which contributed to the delay.

Meanwhile, Cradle continues to occupy the city facility, and efforts to settle the dispute out of court have been unavailing.

New date set for hearing in Shephard case

An evidentiary hearing in the Jason Shephard murder case has been postponed until September, while attempts are made to coordinate the appearance of several witnesses.

In 2008, William F. Smithson was convicted of murdering Shephard inside Smithson’s Thornbury home.

Smithson was sentenced to life in prison without parole, but he maintains his innocence, and claims he was denied the opportunity to confront key witnesses during his trial. He also contends that police failed to properly investigate F. Bruce Covington, who was also inside Smithson’s home at the time of Shephard’s death.

Additionally, Smithson contends that his trial attorney, G. Guy Smith, served ineffectively during his murder trial.

Last year, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Barry C. Dozor said an evidentiary hearing is needed before he decides whether Smithson should have a new trial.

The two-day hearing was scheduled to take place this month, but it has been postponed until 9:30 a.m. Sept. 10 at the Delaware County Courthouse, 201 W. Front St. in Media, in a courtroom to be announced.

According to the prosecution, Smithson lured Shephard into his home, slipped him the “date-rape” drug gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), then strangled him to death in the course of trying to rape him.

But Smithson contends that Shephard willingly came to his home on Sept. 18, 2006, partly for the purpose of having sex — which the two men had also engaged in the day before, according to Smithson.

Smithson, 48, remains incarcerated at a state prison in Huntingdon.

— Timothy Cwiek

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