Federal Judge Refuses to Intervene in Philly 5 Case

The famed “Philly 5” – the group of Christian protestors who were arrested after a confrontation with homosexual activists at the Philadelphia “OuFest” event last October, dealt another blow at the courts as a Federal Judge denied their second request to halt the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office from continuing criminal proceedings against them.

The Philly 5, who had earlier made the same request and was denied action, renewed their request to the court based on recently surfaced statements made by Charles Erlich, the assistant direct attorney. Erlich was quoted as saying the reason the prosecution was undertaken was because the religious speech of the Christians was “hateful, disgusting, despicable words and fighting words.”

The American Family Association, whose attorneys are representing the five Christians, urged the court to step in based on allegations of “bad faith and retaliation” by the D.A’s office.

However, according to a Feb. 3 press release by the AFA, Judge Petrese B. Tucker again denied the request for relief, saying the Philly 5 had provided “insufficient evidence . . . regarding why any of the defendants would want to stifle their First Amendment rights.”

AFA Center for Law and Policy (CLP) senior trial attorney, Brian Fahling, who is representing the Philly 5 in Federal court, said he disagreed with Tucker’s ruling, saying Erlich’s statement sufficiently shows the D.A.’s office exercised “bad faith or retaliation” in filing criminal proceedings.

“The law requires us to show bad faith or retaliation by the D.A.’s office; we established that beyond argument with a videotape of the entire incident that shows our clients peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights, then being arrested and charged with crimes that carry a potential for forty seven years imprisonment, and a District Attorney’s office that retaliated against them because it hates their speech.” Fahling continued, “It is difficult to conceive of more compelling evidence of bad faith and retaliation than what we have presented to the court in this case.”

AFA CLP senior litigation counsel, Michael DePrimo, agreed with Fahling.

“There has never been a stronger case for federal court intervention based upon allegations of bad faith and retaliation than [the Philly 5] presented to Judge Tucker,” said DePrimo “While other federal courts, when deciding whether bad faith or retaliation has been established, consider whether the government has any hope of securing a valid conviction, Judge Tucker failed even to ask the question.”

“The Philadelphia District Attorney has ‘zero hope’ of securing valid convictions in this case. Prior to taking the bench, Judge Tucker was an assistant district attorney for Philadelphia for eight years; she is undoubtedly aware that peaceful expression of First Amendment rights is not criminal,” DePrimo added.

The Philly 5 case began last October, when a group of 11 Christians protestors were arrested and detained by police after a scuffle with a group of homosexual activists called Pink Angels. According to WorldNetDaily, the group of Christians were “preaching God’s Word” when “a militant mob of homosexuals” confronted them.

While none of the Pink Angels were cited or arrested, the eleven Christians had to spend the night in jail. Thereafter, five of the Christians were charged on eight counts: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.

At the initial hearing, four of the Christians were ordered to stand trial on three felony and five misdemeanor charges, facing a maximum of 47 years in prison each; their next hearing date is scheduled for Feb. 17. The last of the Philly 5 is a 17 year old teenage girl; she faces charges in the juvenile justice system on February 18.