On Tuesday in Courtroom 406 at the Criminal Justice Center on Filbert Street, the three defendants in the Center City gay bashing case — Kevin Harrigan, Kathryn Knott, and Philip Williams — appeared before Judge Charles Hayden for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed to trial on charges of felony assault and conspiracy, among other counts. And sure enough, Judge Hayden said there is; formal arraignment in Common Pleas Court is scheduled for January 6th.
The defendants, who previously pleaded not guilty and remain out on bail, appeared in the courtroom with their families, with Knott’s mother crying throughout many points of the proceeding. State Representative Brian Sims was also in attendance in the courtroom, which was crowded but not full.
Prosecutors called two witnesses to the stand: Geoff Nagle, whom we interviewed in the week following the attack, and Zachary Hesse, one of two victims in the case.
Nagle testified that he observed most of the attack from his third-floor window overlooking the corner of 16th and Chancellor streets. He said that he saw a woman in the group pointing her finger at someone and that the person she was pointing her finger at then pushed her hand away. “And then it took a drastic turn,” he said on the stand.
He also testified that he saw one of the men in the group put a man in a headlock and that there were punches thrown. He said that he heard cursing and yelling in male and female voices, including language such as “fucking faggot.” Under cross-examination, Nagle said that he couldn’t identify any of the defendants as having thrown any punches.
Hesse, who is 28, was next to take the stand. He gave emotional testimony about the assault, saying that the incident began when he was with his boyfriend on the way from getting frozen yogurt and walking to Mama Palma’s for pizza.
Hesse said that when the pair encountered the group at 16th and Chancellor, Harrigan asked, “Is that your fucking boyfriend?” “I said, ‘Yeah, that is my fucking boyfriend,” he testified. “‘Do you have a problem with that?'” Then he testified that Harrigan said, “‘So you’re a dirty fucking faggot?’ So I approached him and said, ‘Maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot.’ He pushed me, I pushed him.”
Then Hesse says that he was surrounded by the group. “I was terrified,” he testified. “It’s scary to have people surround you, and your arms are being held.”
While Nagle wasn’t able to make any identifications, Hesse was much more clear. He identified Harrigan as the man who first hit him in the head, Knott as the woman who “smacked or hit” him in the head and called him a “fucking faggot,” and Williams as the man who then hit Hesse again.
Hesse’s boyfriend received the brunt of the attack, suffering two broken cheekbones, according to prosecutors, which resulted in his having his jaw wired shut for nearly two months.
On cross-examination by the three attorneys, Hesse became visibly shaken, confused and, at times, noncooperative. The defense attorneys hammered him on apparent inconsistencies in his testimony.
Lawyers for the trio asked the judge to dismiss the most serious charges and remand the case back to Municipal Court, but Hayden disagreed, saying that the prosecution had met its burden for the preliminary hearing. He then wished all three of the defendants “good luck.”