Philly Blunt

Freelance writer. Editor and web-video producer. Former Atlantic City Press and Philadelphia Weekly staff writer, City Paper managing editor/columnist and Dougherty for Senate campaign manager. Comments welcome here or emailed to brianhickey9 [at] hotmail. Now on: Facebook (Brian Hickey, in Philly) Twitter at Flickr at Be sure to check out Hickey on Divorce Court:

31 May 2006

With no further ado

As promised, this week's column on rats.

If they'd only put the lotion in the basket ...

Yep, guess they're right. Why would somebody like this deserve to die?

More correspondence on the death penalty

It sounds like Brian Hickey is full of hate and anger right now [Philly Blunt, “Lethal Rejection,” May 18, 2006]. There are a lot of people like that, unfortunately, who can’t really “see” straight. Killing anybody, police officer or not, is horrible. Taking any life is horrible by anybody. We are not put on this earth to kill. Mr. Hickey needs to calm down and read the reality of it all.
The death penalty cost tons more money than life in prison. It is subject to being overturned on appeal sometimes more than life. Killing them makes it easy on them. Killing them will not bring any relief to the victims’ families. They are more satisfied knowing that the killer is behind bars for the rest of their lives and has to think about what they did every day. Freedom is a horrible thing to lose. Just ask the innocent men and women who went to death row for nothing. They will tell you what it is like, they will tell you how horrible it feels to loose your freedom. They will tell you that they wished they would be put to death soon, so they didn’t have to spend one more day in prison.
My brother was an innocent man that spent three years on death row and another seven sentenced to life. He has been out for five years now and will never be the same. Our system is a mess and if you take the time to get over your anger and see that, you might be able to use your energy to fight the parts of the system that do not work.
We cannot kill people here or we are not better then the killers. We cannot take changes of innocent people being put to death. Some say they are willing to have some innocent people killed so long as most of the time we are really executing the right person. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen to their family member, then they will “see.”
Amy Wilkinson
Dover, PA

The alternative to the death penalty is not “living on your block,” but life in prison without parole — a sentence that could hardly be called soft on crime. It is also important to note that an IQ in the 50s means mental retardation, and the Supreme Court has ruled that executing people with mental retardation is unconstitutional.
Joy Rose

Although I do not agree with Mr. Hickey’s stance on the death penalty, we are in agreement on one key point: the capital punishment system in Pennsylvania is irreparably flawed.
Mr. Hickey asserts in his article that the system “breaks down” after the defendant is sentenced to death, but the facts show that Pennsylvania’s system of capital punishment fails long before any death warrant is signed. Capital punishment is supposed to be reserved for the “worst of the worst” murderers. In truth, in Pennsylvania, the decision of who lives and who dies is based not on the severity of your crime, but almost entirely on your socioeconomic status, where you live, and the color of your skin.
More than 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s death row prisoners were too poor to afford a lawyer for their initial trial. More than half of Pennsylvania’s death row comes from Philadelphia, a city with only 14 percent of the state’s population. Ninety percent of those sentenced to death from Philadelphia are non-white, and even when accounting for case differences, blacks in Philadelphia are 3.9 times more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants who committed similar murders. I believe that even Mr. Hickey would agree that decisions of life and death should not be based on the color of your skin, your income, or your street address.
Mr. Hickey points out that one recently condemned man has an IQ in the 50s. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2003 that the execution of people with mental retardation is unconstitutional. Mr. Hickey does not appear to think that disregarding the Constitution is problematic, but recent polls show that 75 percent of Americans oppose the execution of persons with mental retardation, placing Mr. Hickey’s opinion clearly in the minority.
The author argues that our system of appeals is too extensive. Since 1973, at least 123 death row inmates have been released after evidence proved their innocence, including six men who were wrongfully convicted and released from Pennsylvania’s death row. Cutting down on our appeals system puts our government in grave danger of executing innocent people. I do not believe that anyone, even the strongest death penalty supporter, can justify the state-sanctioned killing of innocent people.
Mr. Hickey also asks whether one would want a murderer “living on your block.” I would like to remind him that our criminal justice system does not make us choose between execution and having a convicted murder living on his block. In fact, the alternative sentence to the death penalty is life without the possibility of parole. Life in prison is a living nightmare, not a walk in the park.
In closing, I would like to say that all of us who live and work in Philadelphia were extremely shocked and saddened by the senseless murder of Officer Skerski. I am offended by Mr. Hickey’s thinly veiled attempt to use this tragic incident as a forum for his own personal, vengeful crusade.
Lisa Ziemer
Center City

Letters on the gun-checkpoint column

Traffic stops as a measure to control guns in the city is at most a half-measure [Philly Blunt, “Stops, or They’ll Shoot,” Brian Hickey, May 25, 2006]. Think how many gun-packing punks are still too young to drive. We need even stronger measures. Sadly, politics will prevent any meaningful solutions.
America is the new Brazil.
Pranas Danta
Center City

I think the targeting of drunk drivers is out of control. It’s based on MADD’s misrepresentation of the numbers — [former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William] Rehnquist said checkpoints are “probably unconstitutional … but [necessary] considering the carnage on our highways...” There is no carnage. It’s all hype feeding the prison system and MADD coffers. I like your analogy, but it is saying trample on the Constitution to catch drunks, then trample on it to catch illegal gun toters. Police and these presently constituted courts don’t need encouragement to dismantle the Constitution. I’d rather spend my energy saving democracy and promoting social justice as a way of saving lives than your route — but I like your writing.
Dianne McQuillen
Buffalo, NY

What a fantastic proposal you offer. Throw the Fourth Amendment out the window. Well, it was born in Philadelphia, and we can durn well trash it if we please. Let’s not stop there. How about placing conditions on the First Amendment ... like, news writers must stick to the facts! Oh, wait, then the media would lose 95 percent of their content.
James Sergovic
Upper Darby

Coming later today, this week's column on ....

Illustration from

And, pass the patchouli: the death penalty letters keep on pouring in.

25 May 2006

This oughta put things in perspective

Ever wanted to know just how criminally degenerate you really are? Well, this link just in from my pal in Hotlanta, the Hon. Rev. E.B. Webb, will help you figure it out. If you don't see me for the next 28 years, you'll know why.

24 May 2006

So I got all hippied up the other day. Bunch of Dead was on. What can I say? But wanted to do some sort of global warming story so my paper's really good movie critic Sam Adams had interviewed Algore (like it as one word). Perfect timing. So, here's my part of the cover package from this week's paper, and then my column. I really wanted to work the South Carolina incident into this, and the Avalon-SIC raceway too, but couldn't find a way.

TiVo alert

For anybody who's interested, I'll be appearing on UPN 57's "Speak Up" program at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. I'm on the segment after Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and District Attorney Lynne Abraham talking about the Rob Pierson homicide in Fairmount.
(Also, it won't appear on the show, but I'm hearing Solomon Montgomery confessed on his hospital bed to shooting Police Officer Gary Skerski - though he said it wasn't his fault.)

If anybody happened to tape it - yeah right - let me know. I managed to delete it.

A Not-so-Modest Proposal

This week's column proposes a new way to deal with Philly's gun problem ... as in, John Law can learn something from his DUI-enforcement brethern ... I'll post early this afternoon.

20 May 2006

Kumbaya ringin' in my ears

Well, I should've figured the guilt-ridden hippies wouldn't stay quiet all too long after I wrote last week's column calling for the execution of a cop killer. This, even though I've heard from several law-enforcement officers thanking me for publicly saying what's on most of their minds (Some of those letters will appear in next week's issue).
Guess some folks can't see past their Free Mumia paraphernalia. Whoever can find an explanation as to why cop killers shouldn't be executed wins a free vat of tofu.
(Names withheld, and spelling errors kept intact.)

"Like you, I believe the murder of Officer Gary Skerski was a real tragedy. It saddens me, just like every murder does. What also saddens and sickens me is the way you exploited his death and used it as a platform for advocating the death penalty in your article "Leathal Rejection" which appeared in the City Paper this week. Shame on you. Your use of emotionalism in the article typifies the only tactic those who support the death penalty have left to latch on to. After all, it is irrefutable that the capital punishment system is discriminatory, does not deter crime, and legitimizes an irreversible act of state violence. Indeed, the death penalty is a system that is crumbling under its own moral weight, and one day will collapse completely.The bottom line is an execution cannot logically be used to condemn a killing. Does the person who murdered Officer Gary Skerski deserve to spend his life in jail? Yes. Absolutely. But killing someone to show that killing people is wrong leaves this society, already entrenched in a culture of violence, in an even deeper quandary." (this one came from a fella whose name is all over Amnesty International anti-death-penalty sites yet, if he's the same guy, opted not to include that in the letter)

This is in answer to your editorial on the death penalty. The alternative to the death penalty is not "living on your block", but life in prison without parole - a sentence that could hardly be called soft on crime. It is also important to note that an IQ in the 50's means mental redardation, and the supreme court has ruled that executing people with mental retardation is unconstitutional.

And finally:

In response to the editorial by Brian Hickey entitled: " Lethal Rejection" I want simply to distinguish between fact and rhetoric.
Fortunately our country was founded on, and still attempts to preserve, fundamental principles of equal justice for all and equal protection under the law. We have a justice system which often operates in ways that disappoint and frustrate, but the underlying principles are sound.

Laws are in place precisely so that emotions do not replace good judment and reason in the meting out of punishment. Mr. Hickey resorts to inflammatory and defamatory language to argue justice in a case where most Americans would agree that the victim was tragically and undeservedly slain. He uses perjorative words to describe the killer at least 7 times (soulless scumbag, yellow-eyed cop-killer, monster, etc.) while suggesting a "shoot-first" response would be appropriate. He then scoffs at the Supreme Court's ruling in 2003 that the execution of the mentally retarded (not "mentally impaired" as used by Mr. Hickey) is unconstitutional and questions whether we would want such murderers living on our block, an invented outcome as the alternative to a Death Penalty sentence is life in prison WITHOUT PAROLE. While Mr. Hickey appears to dismiss the finding, well documented in Pennsylvania, that blacks are disproportionally sentenced to die, I applaud the attempt to make our justice system live up to its promise of "equal justice for all."

Also, Philadelphia Will Do, Philadelphia Weekly's outsourced blog, kindly (albeit sarcastically) mentioned my piece on Friday.

(hippie photo taken from the University of Michigan Web site)

18 May 2006

Arrest made

Word's coming in that Philly Police have arrested a North Philly man for the murder of police Officer Skerski. More details when they come in, but for now, I'm going to withhold the name.

A spokesperson just confirmed that someone is custody, and shots may have been fired, but they wouldn't confirm whether the person arrested was responsible for the cop killing.

Channel 3's reporting that the suspect was shot in the leg when confronted at 19th and Chew streets in Olney … apparently Channel 6 had cameras nearby and got footage of the man moments after he was shot .

Channel 6 is running with the fact that it was Skerski's killer and tipsters had led investigators to serve searc h warrants looking for him today. They say he's wanted for other crimes in California.


Word's coming in around 2:45 p.m. that police have arrested a North Philly man in connection with Officer Skerski's murder. I'll share more details when I get them.

More on Skerski

Here's a link to more information on the Skerski murder from the Philly PD Web site and I figured out how to get that new sketch going ...

17 May 2006


I wanted to post the new color composite up that the cops just put out, but I couldn't figure out how to take a photo out of a word file and save it as an image ... so if somebody has an idea, email me ... Anyway, tomorrow's column about a cop getting killed.

15 May 2006

This little Ricky went to prison

In two short weeks, Philly's favorite councilman Rick Mariano will head off to the federal pen for a 10-year stint on corruption charges. Always liked the guy, well, until he sued me.

On the Waterfront

Back when everybody was up in arms about a company from Dubai taking over some U.S. ports, I spent a little time down at the docks in Philly.


You may be asking yourself who's this guy with the really long
finger, and what's he got to do with weed? Well, wonder no more good people. Here's the latest periodic update of old columns that came to mind for, um, various reasons. (Photo by CP's Michael T. Regan)

13 May 2006

Rob Pierson

Here's a link to a tragic shooting in the old hood that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. (The photos are by CP freelancer Mike Koehler.)

The bathhouse beat

April 13-19, 2006
Guilt By Disassociation

By Brian Hickey
More than a decade ago, before Rick Santorum fed at the political teat of whoever nurtures easy-to-loathe right-wingers, the owners of the 12th Street Gym got jammed up. As in, they shelled out $35,000 to the estate of a customer who, after his death at the age of 35, won an AIDS discrimination suit against them.
According to a very-easy-to-find-by-Googling account of the 1995 case, gym customer Irving Silverman went to the front desk seeking a Band-Aid after cutting his finger. There, owner Robert Guzzardi allegedly told him, "We don't want your kind in here. You're careless. You could infect everybody."
In the Philadelphia featured a year earlier in the film Philadelphia, the incident would seem offensive enough that gays and lesbians should've started divesting their money from a business located in the heart of their 'hood. Instead, 12th Street went on to become one of "North America's most gay-popular gyms" according to and the place where "all the gay boys go to train," according to the Philly Gay Calendar.
This is what I got to thinking about—Silverman's case, not "gay boys"—when a couple dozen people turned up outside 12th Street armed with stickers, placards, leaflets and a bullhorn Monday afternoon. Not far from a sign declaring the gym has been "stubbornly catering to members since 1986," the protesters, through threats of a boycott, took credit for forcing Guzzardi to sell his majority stake in the business. His so-called crime? Nope, he didn't break out a new repertoire of HIV zingers. He merely donated some $4,400 this year to the campaign coffers of a U.S. senator who equates the love lives of many 12th Street customers to nailing the neighbor's yellow lab.

The rest of the column ...

On Barry Bonds heading to Philly last month

April 27-May 3, 2006

Bailing on Bonds
by Brian Hickey

When Major League Baseball Steroid King Barry Bonds hits town for his only visit of the season next Friday, there's a just-a-bit-outside chance he could pass Babe Ruth for second on the all-time home-run list before he leaves. This, readers, is the justification I opted to employ when a college friend called the other day asking if I could give his new book about Bonds a shout-out.
Now, I haven't read it cover-to-cover yet; it sat on the coffee table most of the weekend since I finally caved in and did some lawn work. But, from what I know of Jeff Pearlman—he was the boss of me at the University of Delaware Review back in the early '90s when we'd often get called to the dean of students' office for talkings-to— Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero (HarperCollins) deserves the buzz that had him waiting to give his 40th radio interview of the past week when we caught up via cell phone Monday.
Some background for sports haters: Bonds, MLB's reigning slugger, passed the single-season record by slugging 73 homers a few seasons back. (A big deal.) This season, should his crumbling body hold up, he could make a run at Hank Aaron's all-time career record. (A very big deal.)
He's also a blatant cheater.
And a royal prick.

For the rest of the column ....


Sorry folks, it's been a while since I thought to log in and put the column up, what with the City Paper launching its new blog this week.
Here's a recent one that only a neo-nazi, or Steelers fan, could love ....

May 4-10, 2006
Him the Midnight Bumbler
By Brian Hickey
Wake up, white people. Those conniving Jews are at it again. And this time, they're conspiring to flood YOUR country with as many job-hoarding Mexicans as they can sneak past the border patrols. Disagree? Then explain how "eight million lucrative white-collar jobs have been handed over to alien non-Whites in the past decade."
It's not like this is anything new, either. U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, the "Jewess" that she is, has been handing high-tech and university jobs over to the "invaders" for years. If you don't rise up and do something about it, the "largest invasion in world history"—the one led by "the Jewish dictatorship"—will spell the end of a pure America.
These are the messages I was bombarded with when I walked out of my front door Friday morning. They came in the form of three photocopied articles from the Web site of National Vanguard, a splinter group of the National Alliance, once the nation's largest neo-Nazi organization. Somebody, protected by the darkness of night, rolled them up in a rubber band and dropped them on my front steps. And as I made my way to the train station, I realized I wasn't alone. They'd also papered the rest of my block, and the surrounding streets.

Here's the rest of it...

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