PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 2016 is being regarded as quite the year and that was certainly the case for Philadelphia and throughout the region. From start to finish, there were a number of news stories that not only captivated us here, but shifted the national spotlight our way.
Here is our list of The Top Philadelphia-Area News Stories of 2016:
Former Representative Chaka Fattah made headlines earlier this year when he was convicted of misspending government grants and charity money for use on personal items and his campaign efforts.
On December 12, Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being charged with racketeering, fraud and money laundering. Fattah’s son, Chaka Fattah Jr. is also serving a prison term for a related fraud case.
Fattah’s sentence was the second-longest ever given to a member of Congress.
2016 was a wild year for Uber in Philadelphia. It’s no secret that there is no love lost between the city’s cab drivers and Uber.
The ride sharing company got the chance to shine when the Philadelphia Parking Authority temporarily allowed Uber to operate in the city surrounding the Democratic National Convention. The company also became an even more popular form of transportation during the SEPTA Strike.
In November, Governor Wolf signed legislation giving permanent authorization to Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing services across Pennsylvania. The governor said the new law allows Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing companies to become full partners in the communities where they operate, while protecting consumers with thorough background checks for drivers. Two thirds of the tax revenue from rides in Philadelphia will go to city schools.
The Bill Cosby sex assault hearings were an on-going saga throughout 2016 and the comedian and Philadelphia native will be standing trial in 2017.
Former Temple University basketball coach Andrea Constand alleges that Cosby, 79, sexually assaulted her at his home in Cheltenham back in 2005, after first drugging her. Cosby’s trial is set for June, 2017.
Cosby’s defense team tried on multiple occasions to have the case tossed out, but they were unsuccessful in doing so. His team argued that the 11-year gap between the alleged actions and the filing of charges, violated Cosby’s due process rights; an argument that was denied in November. In October, the defense argued that Cosby was legally blind and that the impairment would hinder his ability to defend himself.
A bar fight took place in February, but it was not the ordinary bar fight. It allegedly included former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and two off-duty Philadelphia Police officers.
Cell phone video surfaced that allegedly showed McCoy at the Recess Lounge in Old City on a Sunday night. According to sources and a police report, the two officers were severely beaten and suffered injuries to their skulls stemming from an argument over the ownership of champagne bottles.
“If [McCoy] wants to stomp our officers and pound our officers, then he needs to pay the price and answer for his actions,” Mayor Jim Kenney said days after the fight. LeSean McCoy’s attorney’s met with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and they maintained that the running back did nothing wrong.
After several weeks, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge LeSean McCoy and he was eventually sued by the officers.
Kathleen Kane was normally the one putting people away, but this year, she found herself on the receiving end of a sentence. The former Pennsylvania Attorney General was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in prison after being convicted of leaking grand jury documents and lying under oath.
Kane also received eight years of probation.
Kane tearfully pleaded for a sentence without prison time. She had requested probation or house arrest so that she could be home to raise her two teenage sons. She argued that the loss of her career, her law license, and her reputation was punishment enough.
On June 24, Officer Chris Dorman of the Folcroft Police Department was one of the first on the scene of a call regarding drug activity. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said that suspect, Dante Brooks Island, shot Dorman seven times. “Four in the vest area, two were in his groin and leg, and of course the one in the face.”
Island is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and related offenses.
The shooting garnered national attention and even caught the eye of country star Kenny Chesney, who reached out to Dorman after a bit of a shout-out flub.
Dorman persevered despite long odds and on September 9, he returned to the job, two months and 15 days later. “I would have been back sooner if I could have,” he said.
Akyra Murray, 18, was the youngest of the 49 people killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting massacre in June. She was a standout basketball player and student at West Catholic.
Dozens of lives were taken in the massacre in Orlando and the events sent shockwaves throughout the entire world and right here in Philadelphia.
Murray’s friend Patience Carter was also in the nightclub during the shooting. She was shot like Murray and was beside her friend as both were victims of the shooter. Carter survived the shooting and shared the story of the ordeal with CBS 3.
“I keep hearing that I was one of the only few people that made it out of there alive and looking that man in his face,” she said. “We almost didn’t get a second chance at life,” Carter said. “Just do whatever it is that your heart desires, speak to whoever you want to speak to. Say that they have a nice smile because you never know if you’re going to get that chance again the next day.”
In April, Students at Howard High School, in Delaware, mourned the loss of a classmate who was allegedly fatally assaulted in the bathroom of the school by three other girls. The Delaware Department of Justice announced charges against the three girls in connection with the death of Amy Joyner-Francis.
Prosecutors said the medical examiner’s report played a key role in their decision on charges against the three minors. It was ruled that Joyner-Francis died from a cardiac incident that took place because of a pre-existing condition. It was determined that if the assault had not taken place, the cardiac incident would not have occurred. One girl was charged with criminally negligent homicide, while the two others face charges of criminal conspiracy.
“What happened at Howard High School is a tragedy,” said Mayor Dennis P. Williams.
In August, federal agents carried out a series of raids across the region and the man caught in the middle of the investigation was IBEW leader John Dougherty, known widely in this city as Johnny Doc.
“Look, I got completely caught off guard. I didn’t see this coming,” Dougherty told Eyewitness News in an exclusive interview, reacting to the raids by the FBI just weeks removed from the events. The FBI did not just raid Dougherty’s home. They also searched the electricians union headquarters and the City Hall office of his friend and protege, City Councilman Bobby Henon.
Dougherty wrote a letter to the union membership regarding the raids. In it, he claimed that the work of the U.S. attorney and FBI are part of a comprehensive attack on the Union. “I don’t believe I’m a bully. I believe I’m effective. I play the tools. I don’t break any laws,” Dougherty told Eyewitness News.
This was in a lot of ways a convergence of stories; the strike of course and it’s impact on election day. Debates centered around whether a SEPTA strike would keep voters from getting to their polling places on Election Day, or cause them to be short on time, therefore making them sacrifice their vote to instead get to work on time.
The city didn’t have to find that out as the strike ended in time for the election. SEPTA did file an injunction to try to have the strike stopped and force workers to work on Election Day.
Gridlock became the norm for Philadelphia commuters as city streets were packed with extra cars and a few more Ubers than usual.
Philadelphia made history with the passage of a sugary drink tax in early 2016, becoming the first major U.S. city to impose such a tax. Mayor Jim Kenney pushed the tax as a way to fund pre-k in the city, but opponents saw it as a regressive tax that would have a negative impact on the poor.
The bill passed, but not without resistance as a lawsuit was filed by distributors and retailers.
A Philadelphia judge upheld the legality of the city’s sweetened beverage tax on December 19, dismissing a suit that sought to stop the tax from taking effect. The city will begin collecting the tax on the first day of 2017.
There was unrest around the country after Donald Trump was elected president. Protests took place in several major American cities and Philadelphia was no different.
For consecutive nights after November 8, demonstrators walked the streets of Center City Philadelphia with signs opposing the next president. Crowds of hundreds turned into thousands.
“I am terrified of the racism and xenophobia, misogyny and bigotry,” one protester told Eyewitness News. “I just can’t stay silent,” said another. Trump responded to the protests calling them “professional protesters incited by the media.”
The ambush shooting of Philadelphia Police officer Jesse Hartnett took place in January of 2016. Hartnett was shot multiple times in his arm as he sat in his patrol car in West Philadelphia.
Despite his injuries, Hartnett managed to exit his vehicle and returned fire. The shooting suspect, Edward Archer, allegedly confessed to shooting Officer Hartnett “in the name of Islam.”
In December, Officer Hartnett received the Valor Award from the Philadelphia Police department.
In June, 12 girls were found living inside the home of Lee Kaplan in Feasterville. Officials say that Kaplan fathered two children with an 18-year-old woman living in his home. Authorities later said that the girls in the home were gifted to Kaplan by an Amish couple, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, who reportedly fell on hard economic times and received help from Kaplan.
All three are facing charges.
Neighbors say the girls were rarely let outside, and didn’t go to school. Neighbors told Eyewitness News that they complained about the home three years ago, after suspicions about things not seeming to be right.
The couple told police that, of the 12 girls found inside Kaplan’s home, 10 are their daughters and two are their granddaughters, born to the eldest girl, who the couple admits gifting to Kaplan when she was just 14-years-old.
In August, on the stand, a victim described getting to know Kaplan and the sexual relationship that began after her parents gifted her to him as a part of a business deal.
In a year that was all about politics, Philadelphia was the center of it all in late July as the Democratic National Convention came to town for four days.
Speeches, events, musical performances and more characterized four days that culminated with a historic moment. In the birthplace of our nation, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party in our nation’s history.
While many celebrated the moment, others protested it.
Anti-Clinton protesters converged on the city for days, voicing their displeasure with Clinton and with the Democratic National Committee following hacks that unearthed communications that some perceived as the committee favoring Clinton over Bernie Sanders in an effort to keep him from getting the nomination.
Aside from the event itself, the convention preparations were a story all their own. Constructing the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center took thousands of people and months to plan, and several unions from all over the country.
Clinton left the city raving about it playing the role of host. “I’ve loved coming to Philadelphia over the years and it was just so wonderful to be here in this beautiful city. It was so gracious, so hospitable.”