News Briefing
Mar 20, 2014 | 1414 views | 1 1 comments | 54 54 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Man pleads in gay-sex extortion case

A Philadelphia man this week pleaded guilty to extorting money from a New Jersey man who responded to an online ad for gay sex.

Steven Beisher, 42, pleaded guilty to theft by extortion March 17 in a Burlington County court. As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Beisher be sentenced to five years in prison. A judge will hand down his official sentence in July.

The case dates to August 2012, when Beisher placed an ad on Craiglist offering sex with a man. After the victim responded and sent a naked photo of himself, Beisher called and threatened to tell the victim’s wife and family about the ad if he didn’t pay him. In a series of meetings, the victim paid Beisher almost $2,000 before finally contacting authorities.

Beisher has been arrested in the past for theft by extortion.

— Jen Colletta Lesbian inmate denied clemency

The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has declined to recommend clemency for lesbian inmate Lois J. Farquharson.

In a split vote March 13, the board declined to recommend that Gov. Tom Corbett commute Farquharson’s life sentence.

A unanimous vote was required for the case to reach Corbett’s desk.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane voted against recommending clemency.

Victims’ advocate Louise B. Williams and corrections expert Harris Gubernick voted in favor of recommending clemency.

Mental-health expert John P. Williams abstained.

Farquharson was convicted in the 1971 shooting death of Leon Weingrad, a Philadelphia physician.

At 88, she’s believed to be the oldest female inmate in Pennsylvania. Her advocates say she should be released, noting that another person actually fired the shots.

According to board regulations, Farquharson cannot reapply for clemency until December 2015.

Benefits case moves forward

A Pittsburgh judge has declined to dismiss the lawsuit of a gay man who’s trying to extend his workplace health benefits to his domestic partner.

On March 6, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert J. Colville ruled that the lawsuit of Bradley A. Ankney may move forward.

Ankney, 48, is a math teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which is based in Homestead.

Ankney claims the AIU is discriminating by declining to extend his workplace benefits to his same-sex domestic partner.

He’s seeking a jury trial to prove his case.

But the AIU recently asked Colville to toss out Ankney’s case, claiming it’s meritless.

On March 6, Colville ruled in favor of Ankney.

“My client is very happy that the case is going to move forward,” said Sara J. Rose, an attorney for Ankney, adding, “Of course we hope that one day Mr. Ankney will be eligible to get married in Pennsylvania. Until then, we think it’s important for employers not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, especially in jurisdictions such as Allegheny County, which prohibit such discrimination.”

Anthony G. Sanchez, an attorney for AIU, had no comment for this story.

Vacancy on state HRC

There’s a vacancy on the 11-member state Human Relations Commission, which has no openly LGBT representation.

The HRC investigates bias complaints and takes public stands on equity issues involving Pennsylvanians.

The vacancy has existed since June 2011, when openly LGBT commissioner Stephen A. Glassman resigned.

The state HRC has six Republican commissioners, and Gov. Tom Corbett cannot nominate another Republican, according to state law.

“The commission is nonpartisan, and no more than six members may be from one political party,” said Shannon Powers, a state HRC spokesperson. “Members are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Anyone interested in serving on the commission should contact either their state senator or the governor’s office.”

Glassman issued this statement about the vacancy: “It’s extremely important to have diversity in all of its forms represented on state boards and commissions. Since I left the PHRC as its chairperson nearly three years ago, there has been no LGBT representation on the commission, which has been reflected in the priorities of the agency. This is an opportunity for someone from the LGBT community to actively influence the direction of the commonwealth at a critical moment in its legislative history.”

— Timothy Cwiek Ballroom competition returns to Philly

The seventh-annual Philadelphia Liberty Dance Challenge will be held 7 p.m. March 29 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The challenge is a one-day ballroom-dance competition geared towards same-sex couples. There will be a matinee ballroom competition at 2 p.m. and a grand ball at 7 p.m. that will feature a competition and general dancing along with special performances and awards.

For more information, visit

Center to host health fair

William Way LGBT Community Center will host a community health and wellness fair next week.

PrideFit will be held from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 29 at the center, 1315 Spruce St.

The event is free to the public. It will feature discussions on aspects of healthy living, food and beverage samples, glucose and blood-pressure screenings and vendors offering information about everything from sports groups to holistic health to masseuses and chiropractors. Presenters include Dr. Serge Jabbour and Cheryl Marco from Thomas Jefferson University, certified personal trainer and coach Jo-Ellen Marks from Optimal Sport Health Clubs and Mazzoni Center’s Dr. Andrew Goodman.

For more information, visit or email Michael Pomante at

— Angela Thomas

Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 21, 2014
On the Lois Farquharson case, I was reading an article in this week's CityPaper about commutations and how rare they've become and how hard it has become. It used to be that there was only a majority vote necessary.

Not only should the majority vote to commute be brought back, but if the victim's advocate votes YES, the prisoner should automatically be freed. If the victim's advocate, the most adversarial in that process, says yes, then that is a powerful statement.

And shame on Kathleen Kane as well, she needs to be held accountable for her NO vote on an inmate who is unlikely to reoffend and killed the doctor over what was then society's extremely unaccepting attitudes.