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Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Held On All Charges, Will Be Back In Court On January 6

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The three suspects accused in a heinous attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia on September 11 will stand trial on charges of felony assault and conspiracy, among other charges, Philadelphia Magazine reports. As previously reported, the defendants are 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 24-year-old Philip Williams. Today's preliminary hearing was to determine whether the prosecution had met the burden of proof required to charge and try the defendants. Judge Charles Hayden Found they had:

The defendants, who previously pleaded not guilty and remain out on bail, appeared in the courtroom with their families, with Knott’s mother crying throughout many points of the proceeding. State Representative Brian Sims was also in attendance in the courtroom, which was crowded but not full.

Two witnesses testified today for the prosecution. Geoff Nagle observed the attack from a third floor window and stated that he heard "cursing and yelling in male and female voices, including language such as 'fucking faggot.'" The other witness was one of the two victims, Zachary Hesse:

Hesse said that when the pair encountered the group at 16th and Chancellor, Harrigan asked, "Is that your fucking boyfriend?" "I said, 'Yeah, that is my fucking boyfriend," he testified. "'Do you have a problem with that?'" Then he testified that Harrigan said, "'So you're a dirty fucking faggot?' So I approached him and said, 'Maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot.' He pushed me, I pushed him."

Then Hesse says that he was surrounded by the group. "I was terrified," he testified. "It's scary to have people surround you, and your arms are being held."

Before closing the hearing Judge Hayden wished all of the defendants "good luck."

Formal arraignment for the plaintiffs is scheduled for January 6th.


Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Held On All Charges, Will Be Back In Court On January 6

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The three suspects accused in a heinous attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia on September 11 will stand trial on charges of felony assault and conspiracy, among other charges, Philadelphia Magazine reports. As previously reported, the defendants are 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 24-year-old Philip Williams. Today's preliminary hearing was to determine whether the prosecution had met the burden of proof required to charge and try the defendants. Judge Charles Hayden Found they had:

The defendants, who previously pleaded not guilty and remain out on bail, appeared in the courtroom with their families, with Knott’s mother crying throughout many points of the proceeding. State Representative Brian Sims was also in attendance in the courtroom, which was crowded but not full.

Two witnesses testified today for the prosecution. Geoff Nagle observed the attack from a third floor window and stated that he heard "cursing and yelling in male and female voices, including language such as 'fucking faggot.'" The other witness was one of the two victims, Zachary Hesse:

Hesse said that when the pair encountered the group at 16th and Chancellor, Harrigan asked, "Is that your fucking boyfriend?" "I said, 'Yeah, that is my fucking boyfriend," he testified. "'Do you have a problem with that?'" Then he testified that Harrigan said, "'So you're a dirty fucking faggot?' So I approached him and said, 'Maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot.' He pushed me, I pushed him."

Then Hesse says that he was surrounded by the group. "I was terrified," he testified. "It's scary to have people surround you, and your arms are being held."

Before closing the hearing Judge Hayden wished all of the defendants "good luck."

Formal arraignment for the plaintiffs is scheduled for January 6th.


Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Due In Court Today: VIDEO

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The trio of individuals accused in the September 11 assault on a gay couple in City Center, Philadelphia, are in court today for a preliminary hearing. The defendants, 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 24-year-old Philip Williams, are accused of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and criminal conspiracy. All three have plead not guilty. 

From Philadelphia Magazine: 

Here’s what we can expect to happen: The case will be brought before a municipal court judge to determine if there was probable cause to arrest the suspects in September. Attorney for Kevin Harrigan, Josh Scarpello, tells me, “we won’t decide the truth of the matter in that first hearing. It is a probable-cause hearing to establish if the case should go to trial.”

If the case goes to trial — and if no plea bargain is reached — Scarpello suggests that there might not be a trial date until well into the new year. "The earliest would be February or March," he says. "If it's scheduled to be a jury trial, it could take even longer."

The AP also reports that the defendants contest the plaintiff's version of the assault: "Defense lawyers insist that both parties played a role in the encounter, and say the men's sexual orientation wasn't an issue." Despite these claims, reports have abounded that the fight was preceded by homophobic slurs hurled against the victims by the defendants. You’ll also recall the social media sleuthing done by activist Scott Wooledge who dug into accused attacker Kathryn Knott’s Twitter account and found a history of homophobic remarks. 

Social media played a large role in the case from the onset, with the individuals being identified by social media sleuths looking to hunt down the perpetrators of the heinous assault. 

The accused will not face hate crimes charges as Pennsylvania does not currently have hate crimes legislation on the books that covers sexual orientation. However, that may change if State Rep. Brian Sims and State Sen. Jim Ferlo have their way.

Watch a news report on the hearing, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Philly Gay Bashing Suspects Due In Court Today: VIDEO" »


Retired Mennonite Pastor Loses Credentials After Officiating Gay Son's Wedding

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Retired 96-year-old Mennonite Pastor Chester Wenger of East Lampeter Township found his credentials dismissed on September 10 after the Lancaster Mennonite Conference discovered Wenger officiated his gay son's wedding on June 21 reports LancasterOnline. Pastor Wenger addressed the church and its decision in an open letter to The Mennonite, a Mennonite Church USA publication.

Wenger said:

"My dear companion of 70 years and I declare our enduring love for Lancaster Mennonite Conference, for the Mennonite Church, for the Meserete Kristos Church and for all God’s people. We carry no bitterness or regret for our actions. Our hearts are filled with love for all."

"I know persons will accuse me for my transgression, but my act of love was done on behalf of the church I love, and my conscience is clear."

L. Keith Weaver, a moderator from the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, said in an email that the credentialing commission terminated Wenger's retired ministerial credentials after Wenger violated a Mennonite Church USA guideline that states, "Pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant." The ceremony in question was held in the couple's backyard with a small handful of guests, and not in a Mennonite church reports LancasterOnline.

The ruling is raising discussions about church leadership regarding the ruling with Erin Stutzman, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, weighing in on the process of the church's decision making processes.

Stutzman wrote:

The differences in the Constituency Leaders Council largely reflect the variety of leadership practices within the 21 area conferences across our church who currently hold the credentials for their leaders. They do not all agree on what it means to be recognized as a minister across Mennonite Church USA, not just within the confines of a local church or area conference.

Many believe that while area conferences have authority to grant leadership credentials, they must do so in keeping with the written agreements made on the national level. In the current environment, that will affect the credentialing policies for persons who perform same-sex unions, or who are part of such a union. Others believe that area conferences should have freedom to interpret national polities as guidelines, not rules that govern practices regarding same-sex unions.

The Virginia Mennonite Conference ordained Wenger in 1949, at the request of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference for his missionary work in Ethiopia where he founded the Bible Academy of Nazareth. There he was the first elected chairman of Ethiopia’s Meserete Kristos Church, which is now the largest Mennonite church in the world. Pastor Wenger's service with the church spans 65 years.

Pastor Wenger's son, Phil Wenger who wed longtime partner Steve Dinnocenti in June, remarked he would have never asked his father to officiate at the wedding had he known the consequences.

Watch Phil Wenger's interview with WGAL Channel 8 news, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Retired Mennonite Pastor Loses Credentials After Officiating Gay Son's Wedding" »


LGBT Hate Crimes Bill Advances in Philly As Statewide Bill Stalls in Harrisburg

Mixed news out of Pennsylvania this week as the city of Philadelphia moved forward with a bill adding LGBT protections to hate crimes laws while a similar, statewide bill stalled in committee at the capitol in Harrisburg. 

Philadelphia Gay News reports:

BrownThe Public Safety Committee of Philadelphia City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed Bill 140720, which adds a new chapter to the Philadelphia Code to provide for additional penalties for criminal conduct motivated by hatred regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities.

The bill, sponsored by Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Jim Kenney, was scheduled to receive a first reading before the full Council on Thursday. Then, the public will be given a week to submit comments before a second reading will occur and a final vote can be taken.

Given that the bill passed from the committee with a favorable recommendation, Reynolds-Brown said she was optimistic her colleagues will approve the legislation.

“I feel positive it will pass in every way — absolutely,” she said. “The state has run into a brick wall. Given the testimony we have heard today, and the very insightful questions that were raised, I am confident that it will move to the mayor’s desk and become law.”

In Harrisburg, meanwhile, legislators failed to bring Rep. Brendan Boyle's bill up for a last minute House vote this week. PGN reports only once scheduled session day remains (November 12) and it not been announced yet if lawmakers will even meet that day. 

A December court date has been set for the three suspects charged in the September 11 attack on a gay couple in Center City, Philly that catalyzed these efforts to amend the state and local hate crimes laws. 


Rosie O'Donnell Speaks with Twitter Sleuth Who Helped Identify Suspects in Philly Gay Bashing: VIDEO

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Twitter user @FanSince09, who played an instrumental role in identifying the suspects in the September 11 gay bashing in Center City, Philadelphia, appeared on The View to share why (and how) he decided to put his social media skills to work and help solve a crime. 

Said @FanSince09, who chose to keep his identity anonymous:

"I did maybe about 45 minutes of work, but with crowd sourcing, we got at least three people identified within two hours"

Find out how, AFTER THE JUMP...

Last Monday, a bill that would amend Pennsylvania's hate crimes statues to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity passed the House Judiciary Committee 19-4.

Continue reading "Rosie O'Donnell Speaks with Twitter Sleuth Who Helped Identify Suspects in Philly Gay Bashing: VIDEO " »


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