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

newsweek

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 »

Kathryn Knott Testifies, Says Tweets Taken Out of Context

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 last Friday.

Kathryn Knott said she didn’t do anything wrong.

The defendant, accused of aggravated assault and related charges in the 2014 beating of a gay couple in Center City, took the stand today in her defense. Knott, who lives with her parents in Southampton, recalled the events of September 11th of last year. She said she did not strike anyone and did not call anyone a “faggot” as several prosecution witnesses testified.

She said she didn’t see what started the incident, but turned around to see Pat Conley — who testified yesterday — on the ground. (Conly says one of the victims, Zachary Hesse, pushed or threw him to the ground.) Knott’s co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. They did not receive jail time; Knott rejected that plea deal.

She said she didn’t really see the incident, as employees in the FedEx store at 16th and Chancellor were banging on the windows and that drew her attention. She said she ran toward Williams in an attempt to prevent him from striking Andrew Haught. “I didn’t want anyone getting hurt,” she said. “I was trying to calm the situation.”

The defense also brought up four of her tweets, which were among those widely shared in the press after her arrest last year. Knott attempted to explain them. Read more »

Witnesses in Kathryn Knott’s Defense Say They Didn’t See Her Hit Anyone

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.

The victims were also the aggressors.

That’s the picture Kathryn Knott‘s defense attorney, Louis Busico, is attempting to paint. Knott’s defense began making its case today with several of her friends testifying. One man said a victim, Zachary Hesse, pushed him to the ground and later punched him in the head. A woman testified that Andrew Haught punched her in the face so hard that it required her to see a dentist and have dental work done.

The prosecution, meanwhile, is trying to portray those who testified in defense of Knott as a group of old friends attempting to cover for her. The prosecution depicted Knott’s group as uncaring and heartless — one whose members did not call the police until their pictures showed up on the news as suspects the following week. The prosecution also noted that the group went to Tir Na Nog to continue drinking after the altercation.

Knott is charged in the infamous assault of a gay couple that took place on September 11th of last year. Two of Knott’s original co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. Knott rejected a plea deal. Read more »

Here’s What Happened at The First Day of Kathryn Knott’s Trial

Kathryn Knott

“What is that, your fucking boyfriend?”

That’s what started it all on September 11th of last year, Zachary Hesse testified today. Hesse said Kevin Harrigan, whom he did not know, mockingly said that to him as he and his boyfriend passed by a group of friends that included Harrigan. What happened next made national headlines. When it ended, Hesse and boyfriend Andrew Haught were left bloodied at 16th and Chancellor, a hunt for the assailants took place on social media and, eventually, three defendants were charged with assault and other offenses.

Thursday was the first day of the trial of Kathryn Knott, the lone remaining defendant in the alleged Center City gay bashing case. The two others, Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. Neither received jail time; Knott rejected a plea deal. Read more »

Defendant at Beau Zabel Trial Acquitted of Murder

Left: Part of a memorial for Beau Zabel, in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 17, 2008. Photo | Justin Maxon, AP. Right: Marcellus Jones

Left: Part of a memorial for Beau Zabel, in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 17, 2008. Photo | Justin Maxon, AP. Right: Marcellus Jones

In a stunning decision today, a jury took just three hours to return a not guilty verdict for Marcellus Jones in the June 2008 killing of Beau Zabel.

Jones, a South Philadelphia native, is already serving a life sentence in the slaying of Tyrek Taylor, who prosecutors said was the getaway driver in the Zabel slaying. Zabel was 23. Read more »

Lawsuit: Center City Sheraton Fired Woman Who Reported Sexual Harassment By Guest

The Four Points by Sheraton at 12th and Race Streets. (Photo by Jared Shelly)

The Four Points by Sheraton at 12th and Race Streets. (Photo by Jared Shelly)

A former employee at the Four Points by Sheraton at 12th and Race Streets has sued the hotel and parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts claiming she was fired in retaliation for making a workers’ comp claim and reporting sexual harassment by a guest.

Alexandra Austin, then a housekeeper at the hotel, claims that she suffered back and knee injuries after a slip-and-fall in July of 2014. After filing a workers’ comp claim she “began to experience hostility” from management, court documents say. When she came back to work, she claims that she was scheduled for fewer and less-desirable shifts. Read more »

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