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 »

Pa. Judge Rules: Ted Cruz’s Name Stays on Primary Ballot

Ted Cruz

Photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license

One of the (many!) subplots to this year’s presidential race is the status of Ted Cruz‘s eligibility to be president. The constitution requires the president to be a “natural born citizen,” i.e. an American by birth. But Cruz was born in Calgary — which is actually in Canada. His mother was American, though, so he’s fine, right?

Not according to opponents! Some say the Constitution says Cruz is not eligible to serve. Mary Brigid McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener, wrote a Washington Post op-ed that argued Cruz was not eligible. Obviously, that Cruz is a “strict Constitutionalist” gives this story an extra bit of drama (and, if you like, levity).

Some who oppose a President Cruz have gone as far to file a federal lawsuit challenging Cruz’s eligibility. And, yesterday, a Pennsylvania judge heard a lawsuit from a Pittsburgh man who challenged Cruz’s eligibility to be president.

He ruled Cruz was eligible. Read more »

2 Brothers Admit Peddling Bootleg Jerseys on Wildwood Boardwalk

Bootleg jerseys - Wildwood - counterfeit jerseys - U.S. Department of Justice photo

The game on the Wildwood boardwalk where the Strothers brothers gave away counterfeit basketball jerseys as prizes. (Photo: U.S. Department of Justice)

As an expert in Wildwood boardwalk T-shirts, it’s time to let you readers in on a little secret: Not all of the shirts are officially licensed products. Logos are used without permission, store owners swipe T-shirt ideas from one another and — maybe because infringers can escape into the sea — the boardwalk is generally a copyright lawlessness zone.

But not always. In the past two weeks, two South Jersey brothers have pleaded guilty to purchasing at least 16,700 counterfeit basketball and football jerseys and giving them away as prizes at three outposts on the boardwalk in Wildwood and North Wildwood. To which I say: It’s actually possible to win those prizes on the Wildwood boardwalk’s basketball games?! Read more »

Ex-Philly Teacher Cleared of Most Charges in Cheating Trial

Philadelphia School District Building

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Ary Sloane, a former Philadelphia School District teacher accused of illegally changing answers to improve test scores, was found not guilty of most charges on Thursday in Common Pleas court. Her attorney, Michael Coard, called it a “stunning victory for justice” and a “stunning defeat for the attorney general.”

Sloane was found not guilty of tampering with public records and forgery, but received a guilty verdict on conspiracy charges.

“Guilty of conspiracy,” Coard wrote in a text to Philadelphia magazine. “To do what? We’ll fight to get that inconsistent — and illegal — verdict reversed prior to the 5/9 sentencing. And we’ll win!” Read more »

Feds: Philly Municipal Court Judge Lied to FBI

Chris Potter | Wikimedia Commons

Chris Potter | Wikimedia Commons

Federal prosecutors have charged a Philadelphia municipal court judge with lying to investigators in a corruption case.

The indictment (see below) against Judge Joseph O’Neill, 65, says a fellow judge, Joseph C. Waters Jr., tried to influence him in a small claims civil case against an ally of Waters’, Samuel Kuttab. (Prosecutors say Kuttab asked Waters to use his influence in exchange for political support.) Read more »

Lawyers for Amtrak Crash Victims Rip Engineer’s Statements

Robert J. Mongeluzzi (left) and Tom Kline - Amtrak 188 press conference

Robert J. Mongeluzzi (left) and Tom Kline, lawyers for victims of the derailment of Amtrak 188, speak at a press conference today. (Photo | Dan McQuade)

Lawyers for 29 victims of last year’s derailment of Amtrak 188 say Brandon Bostian‘s statements, released today by the National Transportation Safety Board, are an insult to the victims.

“He had absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the events [right after the crash],” Robert Mongeluzzi told reporters today at a press conference. “Now, after months pass after the accident he now has a sudden memory. That, for the victims, is going to be a bitter pill to swallow.”

Mongeluzzi and Tom Kline, who both represent victims in a lawsuit against Amtrak over the crash last year, gave a press conference about an hour after the NTSB released its findings. They zeroed in on Bostian’s statements; one was taken just days after the crash in May, while another was on November of last year.

“Unfortunately, the last memory I have on the way back is approaching and passing the platforms in North Philadelphia,” Bostian said in May. “I remember turning on the bell, and the next thing that I remember is when I came to my senses I was standing up in the locomotive cab after the accident.” Read more »

Prosecutors Want Years of Jail Time for Chaka Fattah Jr.

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)

Federal prosecutors want Chaka Fattah Jr. in prison for years.

In court papers filed this week, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul L. Gray and Eric L. Gibson are seeking about six years in prison for the Congressman’s son. Fattah Jr., who goes by “Chip,” was convicted of 22 counts in federal court last November.

Fattah Jr. was chared with offenses including filing false income tax returns, stealing from the School District of Philadelphia, making false statements to banks in order to obtain loans, and failing to pay federal taxes. He faces four to six years in prison, per the Inquirer, and prosecutors are asking for a sentence on the higher end.

“The evidence demonstrated incontrovertibly that Fattah was a habitual schemer, liar and fraudster, obsessed with wealth and material possessions — the opposite of the picture of the well-intentioned legitimate businessman and entrepreneur that he tried to sell the jury at trial,” Gray and Gibson wrote. Read more »

Newsweek Questions Credibility of “Star Witness” in Church Sex Abuse Scandal


A new Newsweek cover story claims that the “star witness” in the Philadelphia sex abuse scandal that sent Monsignor William Lynn, two priests and a school teacher to prison has credibility problems that undermine his testimony.

According to Newsweek, that witness — known publicly by a pseudonym, “Billy Doe” — offered conflicting stories about the incidents at the heart of his testimony, “bombed out” of a psychiatric test on the eve of a civil trial in the matter, and is a “former heroin user and dealer who had been kicked out of two high schools and been in and out of 23 drug rehabs over a 10-year period.”

Newsweek’s story — “Catholic Guilt? The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy Behind A Lurid Rape Case” — also suggests that District Attorney Seth Williams ignored the conflicts in testimony and errors in a grand jury report on the matter in his zeal to prosecute the case.

“Yes, we do continue to stand by the prosecutions and witness,” Cameron Kline, a spokesman for Williams, said via email Friday afternoon. Doe’s attorney did not immediately respond to a Philly Mag inquiry for comment. Read more »

Superior Court Orders New Trial for Monsignor William Lynn

In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia. The landmark conviction of the Roman Catholic church official imprisoned over his handling of abuse complaints in Philadelphia has been overturned for the second time. A Superior Court ruling, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 awarded Lynn a new trial.

In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia.

Msgr. William Lynn, the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of endangering the welfare of children by allowing sexual abuse by priests to continue unchecked, will get a new trial under a ruling issued by the state Superior Court today.

In a 43-page opinion for the court majority, President Judge Emeritus John T. Bender wrote that by allowing the admission of the “Secret Archive,” a trove of previously unreleased records documenting child sexual abuse by Catholic priests over the years, the prosecution in the original Lynn trial prejudiced the jury against the defendant and that the judge’s instructions to the jury did not remove the prejudice. Read more »

Closing Arguments Complete in Kathryn Knott Trial; Jury to Get Case Tomorrow

Left: Kathryn Knott. Right: A screengrab from surveillance footage released to the public last year. A Philadelphia detective identified the woman in the photo as Knott in court on Friday.

Left: Kathryn Knott. Right: A screengrab from surveillance footage released to the public last year. A Philadelphia detective identified the woman in the photo as Knott in court on Friday.

Kathryn Knott’s fate will soon be in the jury’s hands.

Knott is on trial for aggravated assault, conspiracy and related charges stemming from the beating of a gay couple at 16th and Chancellor streets on September 11th, 2014. One of the victims, Andrew Haught, suffered a broken jaw; Zachary Hesse suffered at least one black eye. Two of Knott’s co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. Knott rejected a plea.

Jurors heard closing arguments from both Knott’s attorney, Newtown’s Louis Busico, and Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry. Busico attempted to convince jurors that Knott did not strike Zachary Hesse and did not use any slurs on September 11th of last year. Barry was more blunt.

“This is a hate crime, right?” Barry said to begin his closing argument. “Let’s stop beating around the bush… Ms. Knott put herself in that chair because she doesn’t like gay people.” Knott testified on Tuesday morning about the night of the incident and her tweets. She said she didn’t strike anyone, didn’t call anyone a “faggot” — as both Hesse and Haught testified — and that her tweets were taken out of context. (She also said it’s OK to call something uncool “gay” as long as you’re not referring to a gay person, and said she didn’t find the word “dyke” hateful. She used both words in tweets.) Read more »

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