Wednesday, September 19, 2012

J&J's Alex Gorsky testify? Much too busy....on the other side of the planet - Philadelphia Inquirer (blog)

People will just have to understand that Johnson & Johnson chief executive officer Alex Gorsky has places to go.

He does not have time to testify at trials, to talk about the past and allegations of inappropriate marketing of Johnson & Johnson's antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

But what about Exelon, the Novartis Alzheimer's drug?

Wasn't that Gorsky's name atop a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2007, when Gorsky led Novartis' U.S. pharmaceutical division. Indeed it was, as the FDA asked Gorsky to explain why one of the company's promotional materials, "makes unsubstantiated superiority claims for Exelon, overstates the efficacy of Exelon, includes misleading risk presentations, and recommends or suggests a combination use of Exelon that has not been approved by FDA." A link to that 2007 letter is here.

The funny thing is that the warning letter to Gorsky at Novartis in 2007 sounded very similar to the one sent to Janssen Pharmaceutica CEO Ajit Shetty on April 19, 2004. Janssen is the J&J subsidiary that makes Risperdal and Shetty reported to Gorsky, who departed J&J in the fall of 2005 to guide Novartis' US pharmaceutical business.

The 2004 warning letter on Risperdal said there was a serious problem because a Janssen letter to health-care providers "misleadingly omits material information about Risperdal, minimizes potentially fatal risks associated with the drug, and claims superior safety to other drugs in its class without adequate substantiation." A link to the 2004 letter is here.

The next in a string of the trials is scheduled to start Monday Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit was filed by the parent of a 17-year-old boy from Sherman, Tex., who was prescribed and given Risperdal when he was only five years old.

He was 12 years old when he started developing breasts.

Just before the first trial began, J&J settled rather than risk having a judge rule that Gorsky had to testify. Plaintiffs attorneys Stephen Sheller and Brian McCormick had deposed Gorsky in May, so J&J's attorneys at Drinker, Biddle knew at least some of what would be discussed in front of the jury that had been picked.

This time, they tried another way.

Late on Friday, they played the travel card. They filed a deposition from Gorsky's assistant, Kathleen Torok, who very clearly explained that Gorsky would not be available to testify on Sept. 26 because he is scheduled to be in Japan and China and that's all there is to it.

Lest the note be read as a complete brush-off to the judge, Torok mentions in the eighth bullet point, "Mr. Gorsky will return to New Jersey on September 30 and will be available to appear in Court on Oct. 1, 2012, if so ordered."

Torok's deposition and Gorsky's travel plans are here.

Sheller and McCormick were not thrilled at word of Gorsky's plans to visit with J&J folks in Asia. They were very suspicious of Torok's suggestion the plans were in place since May and they hadn't heard about this issue before. They asked the judge to order Gorsky to show up in court on Friday to explain himself. Their reply to the J&J motion that Gorsky's subpoena should be quashed is here.

 

Murder of ex-MOVE member remains a mystery - Philadelphia Inquirer

Last of two parts.

All unsolved murders are inherently mysterious, but that of John Gilbride remains extra-curious, since he was shot dead hours before a court-ordered visit with the son his ex-wife, MOVE matriarch Alberta Africa, vowed not to let him see.

Most custody battles never make headlines. MOVE, the West Philadelphia cult famous for two deadly confrontations with police, spent the weeks before John was killed fortifying its headquarters and lambasting him as a bad dad.

John was 34 when he was gunned down inside his Crown Vic in the parking lot of a Maple Shade apartment complex called Ryan's Run. The killer fired an automatic weapon through the window. Bullets ravaged his head and chest.

Sept. 27 marks the 10-year anniversary of John's violent demise. Investigators have never named a suspect or released ballistics information.

In 2003, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi told me MOVE members were interviewed but offered no helpful information.

"There is still this problem with the timing of this homicide given what was pending in the custody dispute," Bernardi said back then. "Is that a coincidence, or is there something more to it?"

I tried for months to get another sit-down with Bernardi and sought the reflections of investigators who have pulled thread anonymously for a decade. He declined all requests and just released a bland written statement:

"Somebody out there has knowledge of what transpired the night John Gilbride was slain. I implore that person to come forward and assist us in bringing his killer to justice."

A father's risk

In 1992, John married Alberta, an ex-con 20 years older. In 1996, the 48-year-old gave birth to Zack. In 1998, John fled MOVE and his marriage, aware of the risk.

"I was told," he said in 1999 divorce papers, "my attitude toward my wife was going to cause a situation that would involve my death."

On Aug. 27, 2002, a domestic dispute between John and Alberta at her home led to John's summoning the Cherry Hill police. On Sept. 9, 2002, the exes aired grievances in Camden County Family Court.

"John was not pushin' because he wanted Zack," Alberta testified. "He was pushin' because he knew that MOVE belief would not allow me to give him Zack."

Her ex-husband, Alberta contended, intended to "drive me and Zackary into a situation where we're confronted with cops and court orders and warrants. And he knows because of 1985, May 13 in 1985, he knows what a situation like that could cause."

(For the uninitiated, she was referencing the armed standoff that led officials to bomb MOVE's West Philadelphia base, killing 11 members and destroying 60 homes.)

John, meanwhile, told the Family Court judge that during the August quarrel, a MOVE supporter named Mario Hardy stepped in to defend Alberta and issued a fresh threat:

"Move and I'll kill you."

A week later, on Sept. 17, 2002, MOVE posted a statement citing "dangerous developments" and urged supporters to do anything "in their power to do to avert this government assault."

Ten days later, John was dead.

Leads or conspiracy theories?

Afterward, MOVE questioned whether John was killed by the government - if he was even dead.

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8 more sex-abuse suits filed against Archdiocese - Philadelphia Inquirer

ANDY DRUDING has a lot to say to the priest who he says repeatedly raped him when he was a middle-school choir boy.

So he wrote the Rev. Francis S. Feret a letter. He wanted to give it to him personally, but hasn't - still scared, after 40 years, to see Feret again.

But Tuesday, Druding read his letter in the most public of venues: a news conference at which it was announced that eight more lawsuits have been filed, including one by Druding, against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, its leaders and seven priests accused of sexually abusing children.

A flushed, sweating, trembling Druding took the podium and read, as if addressing Feret, his former choir director at St. Timothy's Catholic School in Mayfair: "You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God's messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life. But I've never forgotten what you did to me. I remember every day of my life, the details so graphic and so horrific. I see your face all the time in my mind, in strangers' faces, in scary dreams and even in terrible flashbacks that I have to this day."

The eight lawsuits filed Tuesday by attorneys Dan Monahan, Marci Hamilton and Jeffrey Anderson follow eight others the legal trio filed earlier in Common Pleas Court. Altogether, the legal team represents 17 people who say they were sexually abused as children by Philadelphia-area priests.

The cases cite Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor William Lynn, in addition to the accused priests.

In most of the cases, the victims are listed as John Does. But plaintiffs Druding and Michael McDonnell, 44, of Bristol Borough, Bucks County, attended the Center City news conference because they want their names out there.

"It's important to put a face to the cost - show the doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives. Although we struggle on a daily basis, we are real people who have countless issues," said McDonnell, as his fiancée, Debra, cried and their 6-year-old son, Sean, sang and played with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.

McDonnell accuses two priests, John P. Schmeer and Francis X. Trauger, of molesting him when he was an altar boy and worked at the rectory at St. Titus Catholic School in East Norriton.

Hamilton said Druding, McDonnell and the unnamed victims gained the courage to come forward after Lynn's July conviction. Lynn, 61, who investigated abuse complaints against priests as the Archdiocese's former secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004, is the first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children by keeping predator priests in the ministry. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

The lawsuits, Hamilton said, are the only way to hold the Archdiocese accountable.

"The coverup, the incompetence in handling reports of abuse, must stop," said Hamilton, a national expert on clergy sex abuse and law professor at Yeshiva University in New York. "No one knew more about abuse than the Archdiocese itself, and no one did less to protect children. . . . The only way to protect children is the criminal-justice system."

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Archdiocese responded: "We have not received copies of the cases . . . so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time. We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance."

Besides Feret, Schmeer and Trauger, the priests named in the lawsuits are John H. Mulholland, Robert L. Brennan, Joseph J. Gallagher and Edward V. Avery (defrocked).


Contact Dana DiFilippo at difilid@phillynews.com or 215-854-5934. Follow her on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo. Read her blog at phillyconfidential.com.

We invite you to comment on this story by clicking here. Comments will be moderated.

Controller blasts city for dispute over Point Breeze lot - Philadelphia Inquirer

CITY CONTROLLER Alan Butkovitz blasted the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority for threatening a real-estate developer with legal action after he made unauthorized improvements to a city-owned property in Point Breeze.

Butkovitz's letter to the authority was in response to an article in Friday's Daily News, in which Ori Feibush said that he was ignored when he made numerous calls to the city expressing interest in buying or leasing the decrepit vacant lot next to his coffee shop, at 20th and Federal streets.

Butkovitz called the authority's response unreasonable and said that city agencies should help citizens make improvements to city-owned eyesores.

"This will enable the city to protect its interest while enabling local citizens to participate in beautifying and improving the quality of life in their communities," Butkovitz said in a letter to Ed Covington, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

The city disputes Feibush's claims that he tried to buy the lot and maintains that Feibush was told not to intervene there.

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said a letter that Feibush sent Tuesday to the authority was his first official declaration of interest in buying the property.

"Today he took - finally - the first step toward throwing his hat in the ring for that property," McDonald said, adding that three other parties had asked about buying the property before Feibush made improvements there.

McDonald said that Feibush has purchased other city-owned properties, knows the correct procedures regarding making improvements to them and chose to ignore the process this time around. More than 20 residents have agreements with the city allowing them to use publicly owned space, officials said.

"They are completely and utterly out of touch with what's going on in their respective departments," Feibush said when reached late Tuesday, adding that he's expressed interest in the property at least seven times since 2006.

"This lot represents everything that's screwed up about land banking in Philadelphia," he said. "It doesn't work; it doesn't make sense."


Contact Phillip Lucas at lucasp@phillynews.com or 215-854-5914. Follow him on Twitter @UnPhiltered. Read his blog at PhillyConfidential.com.

Prosecutors deny knowledge of convicted priest's polygraph test - Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia prosecutors scoffed Tuesday at a new claim by defense lawyers that they withheld evidence that might have helped Msgr. William J. Lynn at his landmark child-sex abuse and endangerment trial.

The District Attorney's Office never received a formal statement or polygraph results suggesting that Lynn's codefendant, former priest Edward Avery, lied when he admitted sexually assaulting an altar boy, according to Hugh Burns, chief of the appeals unit.

The accuser's testimony about the 1999 attack became a cornerstone of Lynn's trial.

"To say that we knew [Avery] was innocent was, I'm sorry, it's insane," Burns said. "What we know is that he formally pleaded guilty because he had evidence that made him guilty."

Burns' comments marked the office's first response since defense lawyers Monday cited Avery in their latest bid to win bail for Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Burns said he would file a formal reply to the Superior Court motion within two weeks, but wanted to counter specious claims by the monsignor's defense.

Avery, 70, was a critical figure in the case, even though the Common Pleas Court jurors never heard or saw him.

Four days before the trial opened in March, Avery pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome parish in Northeast Philadelphia and conspiring with Lynn to endanger children.

Three months later, jurors convicted Lynn of one count of endangerment because he let Avery live at the parish and celebrate Mass there in the 1990s despite knowing the priest molested a boy in a previous assignment.

Lynn is now serving three to six years in state prison.

In their bail motion, attorneys Thomas Bergstrom, Allison Khaskelis, and Alan Tauber said they learned only last month that Avery had passed a polygraph test in which he denied assaulting, or even knowing, the former altar boy.

Bergstrom said one of Avery's lawyers told him about the polygraph.

The motion says Avery agreed to admit molesting another boy in the 1970s, but prosecutors insisted instead that he plead guilty to the attack on the St. Jerome's boy.

In return, Avery got a 2½- to five-year prison term, one far shorter than what he faced if he had been convicted at trial, where prosecutors were prepared to show jurors evidence that he molested at least a half-dozen boys.

The monsignor's defenders said the district attorneys knew about Avery's denial and the polygraph results, but did not share them because they were "driven by a zealous and single-minded desire" to convict Lynn, the first church official charged with covering up clergy sex-abuse.

They contend that this violated long-standing court rules requiring government lawyers to turn over any evidence that could be considered exculpatory for a defendant.

Burns disputed the facts and the argument.

Guilty defendants typically insist they are innocent at first, he noted. And he said prosecutors never saw any polygraph results - but even if they had, they would not have been required to share them because the material came from a codefendant and was not uncovered by government investigators.

Besides, the appeals chief said, the results of a polygraph commissioned for a defendant by a defendant would not have mattered.

"It would have made no difference," Burns said, "because polygraphs are not reliable - and that's why they are not admissible in court."

Lynn's lawyers say the information could have shaped their tactical decisions at trial.

The lawyers said they had considered cross-examining Avery's accuser, but that Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina made it clear such a line of questioning would open the door for prosecutors to tell jurors about Avery's guilty plea. So the man's testimony stood unchallenged.

Taleah Grimmage, one of the jurors, acknowledged Tuesday that the testimony from the former altar boy "definitely played a large part" in their guilty verdict against Lynn.

"He was the face, the voice," of Avery and Lynn's crimes, Grimmage said in an interview.

But the man's testimony wasn't the only evidence that swayed jurors, she said. Lynn's decision to let Avery live at the rectory and celebrate Mass at the church endangered other children as well, she said.

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Every election is important - Philadelphia Inquirer

By Patricia A. Coulter

As the voter-ID law makes its way through the court system and dominates the headlines, I wonder how many eligible voters do have the proper identification but are not registered to vote. Then I think about all of the registered voters with the required identification who do not bother to go to the polls. Who is electing our government?

We have a presidential election coming in November, so interest in voting in running high. But, as National Urban League president Marc Morial reminds us in this year's "State of Black America" report, we need to occupy the vote.

Occupying the vote means voting for our city council people, state legislators, and governor. It means voting in the primaries when we choose our candidates for office.

The presidency of the United States is the most important elected office in our country, so people are willing to stand in line and cast a ballot. But it was our state legislators who cut the School District of Philadelphia's funding to the bone, eliminated general assistance for thousands of needy citizens, and passed the voter-ID law that could disenfranchise as many as 18 percent of registered Philadelphia voters. How many of us voted in that election?

It is City Council and Mayor Nutter who set our property, local sales, and business taxes, and who determine whether we have playgrounds and trash pickup in our neighborhoods.

If we are going to occupy the vote, we have to register and vote in every election, not just the presidential election. "All politics is local" is a cliché - and a truism. Our local and state elected officials have the most impact on our daily lives. We must choose them wisely, or we suffer the consequences.

Pennsylvania has one of the lowest levels of voter registration in the nation, hampered by a registration deadline 30 days before the election. Oct. 9 is this year's deadline. So, while citizens have until Election Day to obtain state-issued identification, they have less than a month to register.

At the Urban League, we are presenting voter registration information to the job seekers at our career center and to the clients seeking relief from foreclosure in our housing counseling division. We have voter registration forms available in our reception area. As the election nears, we will be working with the National Urban League to set up phone banks to reach out to Philadelphians and help them register. Anyone can call us at 215-985-3220, and our staff will be happy to walk them through the registration process, send them a form, or clarify the new voter-ID regulations.

We must occupy the vote this year and every year. If we do not register and vote, we allow others to choose the officials who create the laws that control our lives. Here in Philadelphia, we have seen the damage this can do. Let us all register, vote, and reclaim our government.


Patricia A. Coulter is the president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia.

Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits - Philadelphia Inquirer

Breaking with anonymity - but not loosening the tenacious hold of childhood sexual abuse - two men announced Tuesday that they had sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, church officials, and three priests.

The emotional statements by Andrew Druding and Michael W. McDonnell highlighted a Center City news conference where their lawyers also announced six other lawsuits on behalf of seven victims purportedly abused as children by archdiocesan priests.

"What you did didn't define me," said Druding. "I may be damaged goods, but I'm not going to allow you to beat me."

Druding, 51, of Holmesburg, struggled to control his voice as he said he had been sexually abused in the early 1970s by the Rev. Francis S. Feret, then choir director at St. Timothy parish in Mayfair.

"You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and who was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God's messenger on Earth and the most holy person in my life," Druding said as his wife, Denise, wept in the front row of seats.

Feret, 75, was an archdiocesan priest from 1963 until March 2011, when he was suspended from active ministry while at St. Adalbert parish in Port Richmond. In May, he was found "unsuitable for ministry."

McDonnell, 44, of Bristol, described growing up as the youngest of eight children, all of whom attended St. Titus parish and school near Norristown.

McDonnell said that in the late 1970s and early '80s when he was an altar boy, he was sexually abused by two priests - the Rev. John P. Schmeer and the now-defrocked Francis X. Trauger.

"We were taught that the hands raised over us in blessing were those that represented the hands of Christ here on Earth," McDonnell said. "Never did I imagine then, and struggle to believe it today, that those hands could abuse a child of God."

McDonnell, who described years of mental-health and addiction problems, spent a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to defrauding the archdiocese by submitting more than $100,000 in bills for psychotherapy sessions that never occurred. He also admitted stealing $9,000 in donations and payments to the Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, where he worked.

Trauger, 67, was laicized in 2005 after complaints of sexually abusing children and spent almost two years at St. John Vianney, the archdiocesan hospital for priests with sex, alcohol, or drug problems. Schmeer, 77, was removed from public ministry in 2004 and then agreed to a supervised life of "prayer and penance" at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.

The eight lawsuits join eight others involving different victims filed earlier in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by Marci Hamilton, a legal advocate and expert on child sexual abuse; Malvern lawyer Daniel F. Monahan; and Jeffrey R. Anderson, a veteran litigator involving church sex-abuse cases, based in St. Paul, Minn.

Although the criminal statute of limitations has passed for all nine victims, Hamilton said there was a basis for a civil conspiracy lawsuit because "the church's cover-up continued right up to the start" of this year's trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.

Lynn, 61, the first church official charged for his supervision of a priest accused of sexually abusing children, was convicted of child endangerment and is serving three to six years in prison.

"The abuse must stop," Hamilton said. "The cover-up, the incompetent handling of reports of abuse, must stop."

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement said that church officials had not seen the new lawsuits and could not comment.

"We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance," the statement read.

Dressed in suits, Druding and McDonnell also wore a veneer of poise that proved very thin.

After the news conference ended, Druding sat in a chair, shoulders rising and falling with sighs, as he tried to control himself, and as his wife held an arm around him and dabbed his tears.

McDonnell's voice cracked as he referred to the "love and light of my life" - wife Debra Bashwinger and their 6-year-old son, Sean, in the audience. Bashwinger was weeping; Sean, unimpressed with the television cameras and photographers clicking away, played on the floor with a Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive.

"No one understands what the families of victims go through," said Bashwinger, who added that without the support of her husband's family, she would have become homeless while McDonnell was in prison.

"I think it's important to put a face to the cost," McDonnell said, referring to his reason for going public. "It's important to show a doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives, although we struggle on a daily basis. We are real people."


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian

at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @joeslobo.