The Cosby Jury Will Come From the Other Side of the State

Bill Cosby preliminary hearing

Commonwealth v. Bill Cosby will be heard in front of a jury from around Pittsburgh.

Last month, a court ruled that the jury for Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial would not come from Montgomery County, where the case is being held.

Yesterday, Judge Steven T. O’Neill ruled the court jury will come from Allegheny County, about 300 miles away. Read more »

Judge: Cosby Jury Won’t Come From Montco

Bill Cosby - Norristown

Bill Cosby arrives for a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown this morning | AP Photo: Matt Slocum

Update, 11:45 a.m.: Judge Steven O’Neill ruled today that the jury for Bill Cosby’s aggravated indecent assault will not come from Montgomery County — but the trial’s venue will remain in Norristown.

Cosby’s attorneys wanted a complete change of venue. Instead, jurors will come from a neighboring county, but the trial will remain in Montgomery County. Jurors will be sequestered after they’re selected.

Earlier: Bill Cosby is back in court again today.

The entertainer, charged with felony aggravated indecent assault, is in court today asking a judge to bring in jurors from outside Montgomery County. The decision to not charge Cosby when the allegations against him originally surfaced, in 2004, became part of the race for District Attorney in 2015.

As a result, Cosby and his lawyers say jurors from outside the county should serve on the jury for his trial. The AP reports prosecutors don’t oppose the motion. Read more »

State Lawmakers File Brief Against Soda Tax

Sodas for sale in a refrigerated case

Photo by Marlith (license)

Thirty-six state lawmakers have signed on to a brief opposing Philadelphia’s soda tax in Commonwealth Court. The Inquirer reported on Monday that the five state senators and 31 state representatives include three Philadelphia lawmakers: state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, state Rep. Angel Cruz, and state Rep. Martina White.

The beverage industry sued Philadelphia late last year over the soda tax, which applies a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax to all sweetened beverage products sold within city limits. While the tax is applied to distributors, most retail outlets are passing the cost on to consumers. A judge threw out the lawsuit, but an appeal is pending. Read more »

Ex-Chris Christie Aides Found Guilty in Bridgegate Trial

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers questions after voting at Brookside Engine Company 1 firehouse Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in Mendham Township, N.J.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers questions after voting at Brookside Engine Company 1 firehouse on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016, in Mendham Township, N.J.

A jury today found Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni, two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie, guilty of conspiring to close bridge lanes as a way to punish a mayor who didn’t endorse Christie for re-election.

Kelly, once Christie’s deputy chief-of-staff, and Baroni, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were each found guilty of intentionally misusing Port Authority resources, wire fraud, conspiracy and violating the rights of the citizens of Fort Lee, New Jersey. Read more »

Judge Rejects GOP Suit Over Poll Watcher Rules

Election Day in Philadelphia  in 2010 | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia in 2010 | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

A judge has rejected an argument from Republicans that asked for the state’s poll-watching rules to be overturned. U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert said that there is no constitutional right to poll watching, and rejected a lawsuit the Pennsylvania Republican Party had filed against the state.

Before 2004, Pennsylvania law said certified poll watchers could only watch the returns in their districts. That year, state lawmakers amended the election code to allow poll watchers to perform their duties anywhere in the county in which they were registered to vote. A 2015 bill in Harrisburg to allow poll watchers to work anywhere in the state did not pass; with this lawsuit, Republicans attempted to push it through the courts instead. Read more »

Philly Judge Admits He Lied to the FBI

"Justice" engraved on Philadelphia's City Hall

“Justice” engraved on Philadelphia’s City Hall. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Municipal Court Judge Joseph O’Neill admitted today he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during an investigation into wrongdoing in the courts. He pleaded guilty to making false statements during the federal corruption investigation.

O’Neill, 65, admitted that he lied to the FBI on two occasions when they investigated former Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. earlier this decade. Waters abruptly resigned his position and pleaded guilty to fraud in September 2014.

During that investigation, investigators twice asked O’Neill if Waters communicated with him about a case involving Donegal Investment Properties. The owner of Donegal was Sam Kuttab, an ally of Waters, and the FBI had intercepted a conversation where Waters asks O’Neill to “take a hard look at it.” Kuttab pleaded guilty last year. Read more »

Gov. Tom Wolf: “Free the Six-pack” in Gas Stations

Tom Wolf - six pack of beer

Six pack photo by Alan Levine, used under a Creative Commons license

You soon might be able to buy gasoline and beer at the same location — though not at the same time.

In a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board titled “Free the Six-pack,” Gov. Tom Wolf asks the PLCB to allow gas stations to sell six packs of beer at attached convenience stores. The liquor code currently forbids the LCB from approving any new licenses “where the sale of liquid fuels or oil is conducted.”

But, Wolf writes, the LCB should approve 12 such gas station licenses to sell up to 192 ounces of “malt or brewed beverages.” Though the law says the board should not approve such licenses, Wolf says a recent court case has reversed one item in the liquor code: Read more »

Philly’s Court-Appointed Attorneys Are Getting Screwed

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

If the world has learned anything from Saul Goodman, it’s that the road to prosperity sure as hell isn’t paved in the salaries of court-appointed attorneys.

The first season of AMC’s Better Call Saul began with Goodman in his past life as James McGill, a court-appointed attorney whose frustration with the court system — and life itself — went through the roof when his expected trial payments turned out to be a lot less than what he’d expected. Turns out similar scenes have been playing out in Philadelphia for quite some time.

A handful of court-appointed lawyers recently told the Legal Intelligencer that the city has been quietly slashing their fees during during the last several months. But the problem actually stretches back years, according to Benjamin Lerner, the former Common Pleas Court judge who serves as the city’s deputy managing director for criminal justice. “I’ve been hearing complaints like this going back to at least 2012,” he told Philadelphia magazine on Tuesday.

Read more »

The Please Touch Museum Is Out of Bankruptcy

Please Touch Museum - Philadelphia - Memorial Hall

The Please Touch Museum in 2014. (Photo: Jeff Fusco)

The Please Touch Museum’s 2008 move to Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park did not work out as planned. Revenue from admissions did not reach projected levels. Neither did donations. And the old Please Touch building did not sell for what the museum had originally hoped for.

Financial problems dogged the Please Touch Museum, and last year it filed for bankruptcy. It was $60 million in debt, but had negotiated it down to $11.25 million.

Today, a judge approved that plan: The Please Touch Museum is out of bankruptcy; its debt has been reduced. Almost $8 million was raised, exceeding what the museum needed to pay off its debt. In all, the museum paid $8.25 million, with an additional $3 million in reserve funds also going to bondholders. Read more »

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