The Balderson Case – 1976

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The Balderston Case

New Hope Gazette Editorial  – October 7th, 1976 Page 4

New Hope Borough Council President D. Joseph Balderston has been acquitted of charges that he threw another person into the Canal. There are some people in New Hope

who are unhappy with the acquittal, but we dare say that even those people will join with those who are happy about the verdict in agreeing that one of the many glories of America is our court system – our system of justice that assures that no man may be convicted if there is a lack of evidence against him, if there is insufficient or tainted evidence against him. Another factor to be considered is the impeccable reputation of District Judge Clyde C. Leaver, Jr., who heard the Balderston case. Seasoned Court House reporters tell us that Judge Leaver’s opinions seldom are appealed by the prosecution; the higher courts have upheld his decisions too often for that. 

Balderston has been subjected to a lot of criticism during the past several months, and – being young, exuberant, often impulsive – he’s the kind of person who lays himself open to criticism almost all the time. But the time has come now to look at the good points of Joe Balderston, and they are many. He’s been a hard-working member of Council (and anybody has to work hard if he assumed the responsibilities of a Councilman); he’s been a member of the Eagle Fire Company for more than half of his 34 years of life, and he’s gone without sleep many a night to help save somebody’s property; he. and Rut Cos11er organized the Jaycees in 1974; he has helped the Community Association in many activities, especially the Auto Show. 

Balderston has been an officer of the Eagle Fire Company, a member of the board of directors of the Bucks County Boroughs Association, a delegate to the Bucks County Firemen’s Association, and a deacon of the Presbyterian Church. He lives zestfully, and

zestfulness often is risky. Now, it would seem, the time has come to bind up the wounds that have afflicted us for many weeks. Let us all accept the decision of the court and devote our attention to positive action in other fields. Let us put an end to rumor; if anybody has evidence of wrong-doing by elected officials, let him present that evidence to the District Attorney or, if he prefers, the Attorney General. There now is a citizens group in existence through which such action could be taken. Let us remember also that this is, or should be, a nation based -on law and individual rights – something to remember, this 200th year of our birth.


Philadelphia Gay News, in PGN: Aug. 5-11, 2016 
Paige Cooperstein August 4, 2016 

New Hope council president accused of gay harassment
Adapted from reporting by Harry Langhorne

Hundreds called for the resignation of New Hope Borough Council President D. Joseph Balderston after rumors surfaced that he was part of a group that harassed several gay men on the Delaware Canal towpath in the borough.

Balderston did not step down at a July 26, 1976, meeting that was held at the Playhouse Inn to accommodate the large crowd of 300 people. He did, however, agree to provide a video recording of the meeting to the Bucks County district attorney’s office for further investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union also said it would investigate the incident. 

Resident Barbara Rouse said at the meeting that, before the alleged harassment, she had heard Balderston say, “Me and my boys are going to clean up the towpath.”

Balderston said he was on the towpath around the time of the incidents to look for a dog that had previously bitten him. Some speakers defended his character and noted he risked his life as a municipal firefighter. 

Residents said they wanted park police to patrol the towpath more frequently than twice a night and asked for lights to be installed. There was some discussion of using a new business-privilege tax, expected to generate $27,000, to pay for the lights. The Bucks County Playhouse was also instituting a new amusement tax that was expected to generate $10,000. Council was expected to continue the discussion at its Aug. 9, 1976, meeting. 


Adapted from reporting by PGN staff

After a two-week investigation, New Hope Borough Council President D. Joseph Balderston was charged with harassment in relation to a gay man being shoved into the Delaware River Canal from the towpath.

The charge came with a $300 fine or up to 90 days in jail. It’s unclear which sentence Balderston received.

The incident occurred on June 12, 1976, and was followed by a July 26 council meeting, which was recorded. The video was provided to the Bucks County district attorney as evidence in the investigation.

District Attorney Kenneth Biehn made a four-page report to the New Hope council. Despite local rumors that the harassment was part of a plan to “clean up” the towpath by harassing gay men who met there, Biehn wrote a single charge was justified. The report said investigators found no “long-term pattern of organized vigilante action against homosexuals by any one group.”

Biehn said investigators found several other gay men who said they were attacked on the towpath, including one from Allentown and one from Reading. But they did not want to press charges.

Balderston said he was on the towpath June 12 to find a stray dog that had bitten him. He said he wanted to avoid a rabies shot.

Passing Of Paul H. Balderston, 98, Oldest Native Of New Hope –
Passed away in 2015 – New hope Free Press>


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