Alleged killer of gay man free on bail

Kenneth Frye (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Police Department) punched Eric Pope outside Tabu in April 2022. Pope died a week later.

Kenneth Frye, the alleged murderer of Eric Pope, was released on bail earlier this month after making arrangements with a bail bondsperson to pay $15,000 to the Philadelphia court system.

Frye, 24, is a former bouncer at Tabu Lounge in the Gayborhood. On April 16, 2022, Frye allegedly sucker-punched Pope outside Tabu for no apparent reason. Pope, 41, died a week later due to traumatic brain injuries. According to surveillance video, his head struck a manhole cover on South 12th Street. Pope was a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a beloved educator.

The District Attorney’s Office charged Frye with third-degree murder. But in December 2022, Common Pleas Judge Lillian H. Ransom downgraded the charge to manslaughter, noting that Frye only punched Pope once.

The DA’s Office is appealing Ransom’s ruling in state Superior Court, and earlier this month, a three-judge panel of Superior Court held oral arguments on the dispute. All three judges indicated they will reinstate the third-degree murder charge shortly.

Meanwhile, while out on $350,000 bail for the Pope homicide, Frye allegedly looted a liquor store in West Philadelphia. Frye entered a not-guilty plea to the looting charges during a Sept. 27 preliminary arraignment.

When Frye’s alleged looting infraction was brought to the attention of Ransom on Oct. 26, she ordered Frye back into custody and increased Frye’s bail to $500,000. Ransom’s ruling meant Frye had to pay an additional $15,000 to secure his release from jail.

On Nov 12, with the assistance of a bail bondsperson, Frye provided those funds to the court, thus facilitating his release from jail.

Frye’s first court appearance since his release was a Nov. 30 preliminary hearing for the looting charges. Frye was in court, dressed in black and prepared to go forward with the hearing. However, the hearing was postponed because the DA’s Office hasn’t been able to secure a witness who can testify that Frye didn’t have permission to be inside the liquor store at the time of his arrest.

Municipal Judge Lydia Y. Kirkland told prosecutor Daniel S. Zmistowski there would be no additional postponements in the case. She told both sides the preliminary hearing must take place on Dec. 15.

Outside the hearing room, Zmistowski told PGN that authorities are working diligently to secure the necessary witnesses for a preliminary hearing. He said he expects the DA’s Office to be ready to put forth its case on Dec. 15.

Regarding the Pope homicide, attorney Zak T. Goldstein, a defense attorney for Frye, said he’s prepared to file appeals, if the state Superior Court reinstates the third-degree murder charge.

Goldstein said he can file an appeal with the entire Superior Court. Also, he can file an appeal with the state Supreme Court, if necessary. Goldstein said he didn’t know whether Frye has secured gainful employment since his release from jail.

It remains unclear if the DA’s Office will seek an increase in Frye’s bail, in the event he’s held for trial on the looting charges. A spokesperson for the DA’s Office didn’t immediately reply to a question regarding the bail issue.

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