Here’s What Happened at The First Day of Kathryn Knott’s Trial

"I was appalled a woman would act like this," Zachary Hesse testified in court today. Knott is accused of assault in an alleged gay-bashing attack last year.

Kathryn Knott

“What is that, your fucking boyfriend?”

That’s what started it all on September 11th of last year, Zachary Hesse testified today. Hesse said Kevin Harrigan, whom he did not know, mockingly said that to him as he and his boyfriend passed by a group of friends that included Harrigan. What happened next made national headlines. When it ended, Hesse and boyfriend Andrew Haught were left bloodied at 16th and Chancellor, a hunt for the assailants took place on social media and, eventually, three defendants were charged with assault and other offenses.

Thursday was the first day of the trial of Kathryn Knott, the lone remaining defendant in the alleged Center City gay bashing case. The two others, Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. Neither received jail time; Knott rejected a plea deal.

Hesse’s testimony was the centerpiece of the first day of the trial. He testified he was having a regular evening on the night of September 11th, 2014. Hesse and Haught met Hesse’s family at Rittenhouse Square to go out for frozen yogurt. He said they both had a drink or two, but weren’t drunk. Afterward, they went to get pizza at a shop at Broad and Locust. On their way, they went down 16th Street, where they passed by a group of strangers. Hesse testified that’s when, unprompted, Harrigan shouted at him about his boyfriend. Hesse said they weren’t even holding hands or being similarly affectionate at the time.

“Yeah, so what if it is my boyfriend,” Hesse said he replied. He said Harrigan shot back in a “tough-guy” tone: “I guess you’re a dirty fucking faggot then.” Hesse approached Harrigan and shouted the same words back at him. Harrigan then pushed him, Hesse testified, and he pushed back. That’s when Harrigan punched him.

Hesse testified the ensuing incident was “terrifying.” He said the group shouted “fucking faggot” and “dirty faggot” constantly; he said it was said “more than 10, more than 20 times.” He threw a punch but it didn’t connect. About six people grabbed his arms, he said in court, and eventually Kathryn Knott threw a punch or slap — he closed his eyes when he saw her open hand coming toward his face — at him while shouting the slur. He identified Knott has his assailant in court.

“I was appalled a woman would act like this,” Hesse testified. He said he identified his assailant as the woman in the white dress — Knott and her friends were strangers to him — not long after the incident. “That was the first thing I told the detective,” he said.

Hesse was left with a black eye and other injuries, but did not seek treatment. Haught suffered two black eyes and a broken jaw; it was wired shut. He was hospitalized for five days and missed two weeks of work. Knott, 25, of Southampton, is charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and related charges.

Five grainy videos of the incident, none of which showed much, were shown in court today. They were shot by someone on the street outside the FedEx store at 16th and Chancellor. In one of the video, Haught is heard yelling, “Where are my fucking glasses?” There wasn’t much else shown in the clips.

Testimony today also came from a bystander, Rachel Mondesire. She and another friend were waiting for the bus when she saw the commotion. She testified she saw a woman in a white dress punch a man, with the crowd shouting “ooooh!” after it happened.

During opening statements this morning, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Allison Ruth said Knott leaped into the fray to launch an assault. “Out there among 15 people in that crowd, she got involved,” Ruth said. Knott’s defense attorney, Louis Busico, said she was a bystander during the incident and did not throw a punch at Hesse or anyone. He called her a “wonderful human being.”

The trial continues on Friday morning.