Update: Tacony gag order

Update: Lawyers for Philadelphia Media Network Inc. -- parent of the The Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com – on Friday formally appealed a gag order issued last Wednesday in the case of four people charged with imprisoning four mentally disabled individuals in a Tacony basement to steal their Social Security disability benefits.

The appeal of the order by Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield was filed in the city’s Common Pleas Court. Lawyers for the media company are to go before a Common Pleas Court motion on Monday to ask for a stay of Neifield’s order and scheduling of an emergency appeal hearing as soon as possible.

Philadelphia Media Network’s attorneys have argued that Neifield’s gag order is too broad and impinges on the Constitutional free speech rights of those covered by the order. The judge barred lawyers, defendants, victims and minors who may be witnesses from speaking publicly about the Tacony case, which has drawn international media coverage.

The gag order was sought by the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to reduce the amount of pretrial publicity about the case, which the prosecutors contend could make it difficult to impanel a jury and give the four defendants a fair trial.

Four people have been charged since Oct. 15, when four mentally disabled adults, chained and malnourished, were found in the basement of a Tacony rowhouse. Those charged include Linda Ann Weston, 51; boyfriend Gregory Thomas, 47; Eddie Wright, 50, a street preacher who allegedly helped Weston keep the victims confined; and Weston’s 32-year-old daughter, Jean McIntosh.

A personal note: some may have noticed that the Crime & Punishment blog has been dormant. On Oct. 17, my 85-year-old father – the original Joseph Slobodzian -- was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital after he fell and could no longer walk. The diagnosis was dire, but Dad is home again with his wife of 63 years, resting comfortably in the house he rebuilt, embarked on the last leg of his life’s journey.