Porngate Prosecutors Get Their Sensitivity Training

Seth Williams, left. Paul Meshanko, right.

Seth Williams, left. Paul Meshanko, right.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released a statement today detailing the sensitivity training his staff underwent in the wake of the “Porngate” scandal — and probably none too soon. In recent weeks, a growing chorus of elected officials and activist groups have called on Williams to fire three of his prosecutors who’d been involved in the sending and receiving of pornographic, homophobic and racist emails while employed elsewhere. Williams said he wouldn’t fire the men–Frank Fina, Patrick Blessington and Marc Costanza–but he would implement training.

According to Williams, Paul Meshanko, president and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, led the training. (According to his Facebook page, he’s the former CEO, but other sites describe him simply as CEO.) Legacy is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, but Meshanko lives just outside of D.C. He is the author of The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace. The “neuroleadership” part of Meshanko’s theory is based on the notion that respect primes our brains to do their best work, and that the brain responds more happily—with serotonin and oxytocin—to respectful behavior in the workplace. When we are disrespected, this triggers cortisol and adrenaline and other negative mojo that unpleasantly drugs the prefrontal cortex. Read more »

Search Is On for Cheltenham High Grad Who May Be Armed

Jacob Marberger. Photos | Facebook

Jacob Marberger. Photos | Facebook

Everyone is looking for Jacob Marberger, but this is no ordinary missing persons case. Two campuses — that of his high school and college — have been on alert since November 16th, when Marberger allegedly took a gun from his parents’ home in Cheltenham and disappeared. His university, Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, has cancelled classes and shut the campus down until November 29th. Cheltenham High was locked out on Monday. A warrant is out for his arrest, and he is said to be “despondent.”

It’s unclear when trouble started for the 19-year-old but the difficulties certainly reached their peak last month, when he was suspended from college for allegedly getting drunk and brandishing an antique gun at his fraternity house. The action resulted in his being kicked out of Phi Delta Theta, and he resigned from his student government position. Though the suspension only lasted a week and a half, he still faced the possibility that he’d be expelled. Read more »

Love in the Time of Dog DNA Testing

Birdie. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Birdie. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

This is my third Chihuahua. That’s what I used to say about my dog, Birdie, until this summer, when I got her DNA tested. That’s right — I paid nearly a hundred dollars to ship some glorified Q-tips to a laboratory in Lincoln, Nebraska, so that Science could tell me who my dog really is, deep down in her soul. I wouldn’t have done it 10 years ago, but then, no one did. In 2015, though, this is where we are: Dog DNA testing is so common, its popularity was spoofed in a Funny or Die video in which a dog owner is peer-pressured into the test. Some people do the test for pragmatic reasons — pertaining to health or behavior — and some people do it for fun, as a novelty. Me? I did it for love. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me start at the beginning. Read more »

Milton Street Finally Brought Porn to City Hall Yesterday — and It Was the Right Call

Yesterday the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women gathered at City Hall with several City Councilwomen to demand that District Attorney Seth Williams fire three of his employees: Frank Fina, Pat Blessington and Marc Constanzo. The three men, now prosecutors for the City of Philadelphia, were all involved in Porngate, the snappy name for the scandal that erupted after the discovery of a glut of pornographic, misogynistic, racist and homophobic emails written and distributed on state computers.

In reviewing the conduct of his employees, Williams has said that he will not fire them; rather, he’ll have them go through sensitivity training. The members of NOW and the five City Councilwomen feel this is not enough. The question, if you boil it down, is whether these men can perform their jobs responsibly, fairly and effectively — including prosecuting sex crimes — given the attitudes reflected in the emails. Williams says yes; NOW and the Councilwomen say no.

Yesterday one woman after another stood behind a podium to talk about the old boys network, the lack of judgment, and why women need to be respected. There was a lot of back-patting: I’d like to thank Cindy for this, I’d like to thank NOW for that, etc. Despite all the words, not much was said. One TV cameraman starting packing up to go even while one of the women was still talking. It was an earnest presentation, but it lacked impact. For a discussion of porn, it was really quite boring.

I don’t say that to be flip. I say that as a former hell-raising activist who spent many hours in meetings about the most effective tactics for making change. Standing behind a podium and talking in generalities was never on the list.  Read more »

City Council Women to DA: Fire Porngate Prosecutors

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

This morning, as promised, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women held a press conference in City Council’s Caucus room in City Hall to release a statement (not a resolution, they were sure to clarify) demanding that the office of Philadelphia DA Seth Williams fire three of its prosectors who were part of the porngate email chain: Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Pat Blessington.

The statement, which was signed by all five female Council members, noted that “The emails which these men forwarded reportedly include women in compromising sexual situations with captions indicating advancing in the work place requires such acts, depiction of African American babies as violent from infancy, and stereotyping and ridiculing of gay men.” The statement takes specific aim at Fina, “whose involvement in prosecuting sex crimes makes this behavior all the more disgraceful.” Read more »

Philadelphia’s a “World Heritage City.” What Now?

Until last week, there were no World Heritage Cities in the United States. Given that the U.S. is a relatively new country, that’s not surprising — cities like Jerusalem and Tunis do have a wee bit more heritage. Last week, however, at the 13th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city added to the list, in large part due to the presence of Independence Hall, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. That designation celebrates places “with outstanding value to humanity” that “belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.” Read more »

The Illicit Draw of Graffiti Pier


Photos by Bradley Maule

THE MEN ARE MOSTLY dressed in black. Some wear hoods; all of them have their faces covered. Standing in the trees at a distance from them, across a stretch of brown river, I watch as they track each other, guns drawn, shouting to each other in Spanish. “Cabron!” one says as he comes around a corner and fires. Suddenly, it’s chaos, the machine-gun-like rat-a-tat of the weapons echoing off of every broken wall, the men screaming as they charge each other. I feel afraid though I’m at a safe distance. How far can a paintball travel, anyway?

It’s another sunny day at Pier 18 in Port Richmond. Paintball is just one of the many uses of the abandoned ruins of what was once the locus of Philadelphia’s coal trade. More commonly known as Graffiti Pier, the vast industrial Stonehenge has become, in the last 30 years or so, an unsanctioned museum for street artists, graffiti geniuses and even meager taggers. The height of the structures and their individual room-like spaces provide nothing but walls — walls and a beautiful riverfront view. What could be better than painting on vast canvases at the edge of the Delaware? It’s an oddly beautiful spot — isolated and apart from the city, but defiantly of the city at the same time. Read more »

WATCH: Thief, Cashier Scuffle Over Cigarettes


Last night a fortyish guy in gray sweatpants and hoodie went into the 7-Eleven at 3300 Aramingo Avenue, took a look around (including right into the surveillance camera) and then left. Police say he came right back in and jumped behind the counter to grab several packets of cigarettes (the cashier wasn’t behind the counter at the time). When he went to leave with his stolen bounty, an employee grabbed him and tried to to block the doors, at which point the cigarette thief punched the cashier in the face, picked up his smokes and ran away.

Read more »

5 Unexpected Moments at Chip Fattah’s Trial

FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2014 file photo Chaka Fattah Jr., walks from the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

FILE – In this Aug. 14, 2014 file photo Chaka Fattah Jr., walks from the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Chaka Fattah’s son, Chaka Fattah Jr., who goes by Chip, is on trial for tax fraud. Acting as his own lawyer (though he’s not a lawyer), Fattah Jr. has now called for a mistrial due to a surprising revelation heard in court this week. Below, the details on that revelation and a few other unexpected moments.

1. The FBI leaked info to the Inquirer. The lead FBI investigator into Fattah’s fraud case testified yesterday that in 2012 he alerted an Inquirer reporter that there’d be an FBI raid on Chip Fattah’s condo. The Inquirer’s Jeremy Roebuck writes:

Under questioning from prosecutors, FBI Special Agent Richard Haag said he contacted reporter Martha Woodall during the investigation to learn more about Fattah’s work at a for-profit education firm. In exchange, he said, he gave Woodall limited information about the federal probe. He said he did not share any grand jury material.

Read more »

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