Trial against evangelist preachers delayed
September 1, 2010, 9:30 pm·
The criminal trial for two Christian evangelists — who plan to file a federal suit against the University after being arrested outside the Masjid al Jamia mosque at 4228 Walnut St. — was delayed to a Nov. 12 Philadelphia Municipal court date.
Michael Marcavage and Kenneth Fleck were arrested on July 3 for disorderly conduct and obstruction of a highway. However, according to Marcavage, he and Fleck were peacefully preaching outside the mosque. The arrest by Penn Police was “in violation of our free speech rights as missionaries to come share the word of god,” Marcavage said.
Marcavage and Fleck now plan to file a lawsuit to “prevent the [University’s] police department to be able to do what they’ve been doing and stopping us in engaging in free speech activities on the public sidewalk,” said Marcavage, adding that they plan to “resolve the criminal trial before continuing” with a lawsuit.
According to University spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman, Penn has not received any notification regarding any impending lawsuit from Marcavage and Fleck. “No one at Penn or Penn’s counsel has heard anything,” she said.
Division of Public Safety spokeswoman Stef Cella had previously declined to comment on the active case.
On Aug. 10, the originally scheduled trial date, Marcavage said he was “set for trial,” but prosecuting assistant district attorney Steven Dickinson requested a “minimum of two hours to put on the case,” resulting in a rescheduling.
Dickinson, who was unable to discuss the merits of his case, confirmed that a disagreement over the length of the trial was the cause of the delay but said he requested a maximum of two hours as opposed to a defense counsel’s request of four. Marcavage’s “defense counsel estimated 15 witnesses” in the summary offense trial, Dickinson said, adding that “four hours is too long.”
Dickinson also said the Nov. 12 trial was chosen because “it was the only open date — the courts are handling a lot of cases.”