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No legal charges in Pittsburgh bath house death

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From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Allegheny County prosecutors will not press charges against a Strip District club for the death of one of its patrons in January.

Cleophus Pettway, 31, of Youngstown, Ohio, was found dead in a private room at Club Pittsburgh, a popular meeting spot for gay men.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said today that toxicology results from the Medical Examiner’s office showed that Mr. Pettway had cocaine in his system but also chemicals from a solvent typically used to clean VCRs. The club sold the solvent — advertised under the brand “Maximum Impact” — to patrons, who would use them to get high.

Mr. Zappala said that his office would not charge the club with involuntary manslaughter because the death was more likely caused by the cocaine than the solvent.

But, he added, the club has been “put on notice” to not sell the solvents anymore.

More details in tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Is it in poor taste to use the phrase “slap on the wrist” when discussing a gay issue?   Even though they are not going to be legally culpable for his death, given the dangers of these solvents – is there a moral culpability?  If the presence of the solvents, which were not sold for their intended purposes, in any way helped facilitate his death, then this is a problem and a moral quandary for our community.

Meanwhile, Club Pittsburgh owners Steve Hereforth and Peter Karlovich received the Kerry Stoner Award for nearly a decade of service to the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.

The likelihood is that other patrons of Club Pittsburgh also may have illegal substances such as cocaine in their systems so the owners should be making sure the Club doesn’t sell substances to boost an already dangerous (and illegal high). It is after all a health club, at least according to the zoning regulations. I don’t think the YMCA sells inhalants. I could be wrong.

Yes, yes, I know we are going to hear from those who believe Mr. Pettway snorted his own coke and made his own decisions and thus, immunized the Club from any responsibility for his behavior.  It doesn’t change the fact that the DA has said no more inhalants so whatever.

My point continues to be that this club is not zoned properly.  It is not a health club, it is a bath house established to promulgate sexual activity for gay (and gay curious) men.  Improper zoning puts men’s health at risk and for that, the owners and the zoning authorities should be held accountable.  Including the Mayor.

“Closeting” a bath house as a health club is not a constructive way to promote positive sexual representations of the gay men’s community. It is 2009, for crying out loud.   I have been hearing stories of local business owners crying about the legions of Pittsburgh queers who would take to the street if our bath house was threatened.  Ha.  Our Gay & Lesbian Community Center IS threatened.  What’s more important?  What’s worth fighting to preserve and protect?

Even as I type, I see comments hitting my inbox crowing about this vindication.  Of what?  You are happy that the bastion of gay men’s sex is only a lesser factor in someone’s death?  Seriously?

We will never know if more accurate zoning could have brought to light the sale of inhalants any sooner and POSSIBLY prevented Mr. Pettway’s death.  We may never know if Mayoral Chief of Staff Yarone Zober, acting on behalf of the Mayor to fend off zoning investigations, could have brought to light the sale of inhalants any sooner and POSSIBLY prevented Mr. Pettway’s death.

But we do know now that inadequate zoning could lead to someone else’s death.  Think of a fire. Stopping the sale of inhalants is not adequate. Club Pittsburgh must be rezoned, regardless of the power and influence of its owners.  It doesn’t matter if you blame the right wingnuts for calling 311 in the first place.  It doesn’t matter if you magically know that a woman could never have acquired the information necessary for the 311 call (having never been there yourself, of course).  It doesn’t matter that the owners want to gussy up the hog and pretend it is the Duquesne Club.

What matter is that the Club’s improper zoning is illegal and sends a very negative message both about “gay sex” and the corrupting influence of gay money.  Buying off the Mayor does not mean we’ve arrived anywhere worth being.

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2 Responses to No legal charges in Pittsburgh bath house death

  1. Rick

    October 24, 2012 at 2:41 am

    The whole Hereforth and Karlovich story is quite fishy. They front a gay bath house downtown that favors massive bareback sex by the 18-24 yo crowd. They own a bareback porn production house based ‘in’ Pittsburgh and San Fran. They take money from their not for profit Delta Foundation that fronts the annual Pittsburgh Pride celebration. And they give lots of money to the mayor and county executive. Both democrats of long standing. Of course any criminal activity will be ignored. Those two Club Pittsburgh deaths are hardly recalled now days. And last but not least, their mount washinton palace of a home is the city’s favorite staging location for nonprofit events. So much so that the estate acts as a tax write off !!!