The city’s federal appeal to evict a local Boy Scouts of America council from a city-owned building remained in mediation this week, according to court records.
Since 2008, the city has been trying to evict the BSA Cradle of Liberty Council from 231-251 N. 22nd St. because the council refuses to accept gays, nor will it pay fair-market rent.
But in 2010, a federal jury ruled that the city’s eviction attempt placed an unconstitutional condition on the Scouts’ first-amendment right of expressive association.
The city, however, contends that jurors weren’t given an opportunity to adequately consider a rental-payment option the city offered the Scouts in order to remain in the building.
In March, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter upheld the jury verdict, and also ordered the city to pay the Scouts $877,000 in legal fees.
The following month, the city appealed Buckwalter’s rulings in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
The appeal was referred to the court’s mediation program, and a mediation session was scheduled for July 5.
Additional information was unavailable at press time.
Penny Conly Ellison, a mediator for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, declined to comment on the status of the litigation, but noted that when a briefing schedule is issued, it will be on the public docket.
In 2010, the Nutter administration tried to settle the litigation by agreeing to sell the property to the Scouts for $500,000.
But Philadelphia City Council did not approve the proposed deal.
Earlier this month, the national BSA reaffirmed its antigay membership and employment policies after an internal review.
Arraignment scheduled in inmate assault
Kevin Vincent Hannig, a federal inmate accused of assaulting an openly gay inmate last year, is scheduled for an Aug. 2 arraignment, according to court records.
Hannig is charged with causing serious bodily harm to Kenneth J. Houck Jr. and aiding and abetting the attack on Houck.
On Nov. 10, Hannig was at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia when the assault on Houck took place.
Houck was in his cell at the detention center when Hannig and another male allegedly pulled Houck by his legs from the top bunk bed, then stomped on him and beat him with a chair, Houck told PGN.
The tibia and fibula bones in Houck’s right leg were fractured during the assault, requiring the installation of a metal rod from ankle to knee for stabilization.
Houck told PGN he faces a series of surgeries to avoid amputation of the leg.
Hannig’s arraignment is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 2 in Courtroom 5B of the U.S. Court House, 601 Market St.
Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart will preside at the arraignment, according to court records.
During the arraignment, Hannig will have an opportunity to enter a formal plea.
Hannig, 34, faces up to 10 years in federal lock-up if convicted.
He’s currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Center in Fairton, N.J.
An attorney for Hannig hadn’t been selected at press time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Neuman Leverett 3rd, who’s prosecuting Hannig, had no comment for this story.
At the time of his assault, Houck was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to transporting child pornography.
In February, U.S. District Judge Gregory M. Sleet sentenced Houck to 97 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
Houck’s projected release date is March 3, 2018, if he doesn’t commit any infractions while in custody.
Hearing scheduled in Delco murder case
William F. Smithson, a gay man convicted of killing another man six years ago, has been granted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he received a fair trial.
In November 2008, Smithson was convicted of first-degree murder for allegedly strangling Jason Shephard, who worked with Smithson at an electronic-scoreboard manufacturer.
The crime took place in September 2006 inside Smithson’s Delaware County home.
In January 2009, Smithson was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
But Smithson is seeking a new trial, partly on the basis that his former attorney, C. Guy Smith, served ineffectively during Smithson’s trial, according to court filings.
The toxicologist who tested Shephard’s blood after his death wasn’t called to testify at the trial, which Smithson also cites in his quest for a new trial.
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Barry C. Dozor will preside at the evidentiary hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 2 in Courtroom 5 of the Delaware County Courthouse in Media.
Supporters of Smithson maintain that prosecutors didn’t adequately investigate the presence of another man in Smithson’s house at the time of Shephard’s death.
“I would imagine there has to be one judge out there who is intelligent and ethical enough to see that justice was not served [in Smithson’s trial],” said Rob Nardello, an advocate for Smithson.
Delaware County Assistant District Attorney William R. Toal 3rd, who is handling the case for the commonwealth, had no comment for this story.
— Timothy Cwiek
Hearings scheduled in meth case
Charges moved forward this month against two local LGBTs accused in a multi-county methamphetamine bust.
At a July 18 arraignment, a Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judge scheduled Joseph “Phoenix” Croxton for a pre-trial conference Oct. 16.
Croxton is charged with three counts of use/possession of drug paraphernalia and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, which are misdemeanors. Seven felony charges for manufacturing and other crimes were dropped.
Marissa Devine, who is charged with 14 felonies and six misdemeanors, earlier this month was also scheduled for a pre-trial confernece Oct. 16.
Both remain free on bail.
Constitution Center to honor ADA
The National Constitution Center this weekend will pay tribute to the Americans with Disabilities Act with a day of free admission and interactive events.
On July 28, the center will honor the 22nd anniversary of the passage of the measure, which is inclusive of those with HIV/AIDS. The day will feature the unveiling of ADA pioneer Justin Dart Jr.’s wheelchair, a new addition to the center’s permanent collection, as well as a photography display of documentarians Tom Olin and Harvey Finkle, who will be on hand from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Arts and crafts activities will be available, as will information from disability-advocacy and civil-rights agencies, including William Way LGBT Community Center.
Singers and performers will entertain throughout the day, and visitors can take part in a Disability Pride March at 2:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.constitutioncenter.org
or call 215-409-6600.
— Jen Colletta