Kathryn Knott Verdict Is In

On its third day of deliberation, the jury found her guilty on four counts of simple assault, conspiracy, reckless endangerment; not guilty of aggravated assault. Sentencing is scheduled for February 8th.

Kathryn Knott walks from the criminal justice center Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in Philadelphia. Knott is charged with taking part in a violent attack on a gay couple.

Kathryn Knott walks from the criminal justice center Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in Philadelphia.

There was a split verdict in the Kathryn Knott trial.

Knott was only convicted of misdemeanors in the beating of a gay couple in Center City last September. She was acquitted of the most serious charge, felony aggravated assault, but was convicted of simple assault, conspiracy to commit simple assault and reckless endangerment. Sentencing is February 8th.

Both sides claimed victory. Knott’s lawyer, Louis Busico, said he and his client were happy with what happened. Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry said the victims were similarly pleased with the verdict.

“The victims are very happy,” Barry said. “These two men who went through this have been nothing but gracious … they’ve said repeatedly in many situations that they weren’t out for vengeance. They just wanted it to be recognized that what happened, happened.”

Jurors convicted Knott on only four of the 10 counts she was facing. She was convicted of simple assault on Zachary Hesse, reckless endangerment on both Hesse and boyfriend Andrew Haught, and conspiracy to commit simple assault on Hesse. She was found not guilty of aggravated assault on both victims, simple assault on Haught and all but one of the conspiracy charges.

“It shows that she wasn’t just standing there doing nothing,” Barry said of the verdict. “The jury clearly found her guilty of everything that we said regarding her own actions: That she punched Zach Hesse, that she was creating a reckless situation.”

Barry wouldn’t say what he would ask for at sentencing next February. Busico said he wouldn’t either, but told the press they could figure it out. (Translation: He will ask for no jail time.) Busico said his client does not hate gay people.

“This young woman is not homophobic,” he said. “There isn’t a fiber of her being that is homophobic. Sadly, unfortunately, but realistically, there are times that we all use words — whether it’s with a spouse, a significant other, a family member, a friend, or strangers — we all say things at times we all wish we could take back. But they don’t come from the heart. They come from being reactionary.”

The incident — which took place on September 11th of last year at 16th and Chancellor — made international headlines. Information trickled out on social media and caused an uproar. Eventually, images of the incident were circulated and police released footage taken from the Republic Bank MAC machine surveillance camera of Knott’s group walking down 16th Street after the incident.

Andrew Haught suffered a broken jaw in the attack, and has a permanent scar on his face. His jaw had to be wired shut with 16 screws, and he missed two weeks of work. Zachary Hesse’s injuries were limited to 1 or 2 black eyes.

Rewards were offered. (Later, businesses were accused of not paying out rewards; Philadelphia Police Det. Ralph Domenic testified this week no rewards were ever claimed.) Former Real Housewives of New Jersey cast member Greg Bennett got involved. Social media hunted for the suspects in police footage, and claimed success when three were charged; Domenic testified Monday pseudonymous Twitter user @FanSince09, who has claimed multiple times he “solved” the case, “did not” do so.

Then-City Councilman (and now mayor-elect) Jim Kenney called for a federal investigation and spearheaded a change to Philadelphia’s criminal code that added gender identity and sexual orientation to Philly’s hate crime law. Then-gubernatorial candidate (and now governor) Tom Wolf weighed in. A witness came forward. Brian Sims held a support rally for the couple.

Eventually, three suspects were arrested: Philip Williams, Kevin Harrigan, and Kathryn Knott. Their mugshots were splashed all over the news. Knott’s Twitter feed became a source of public discussion, with tweets involving “dyke” and “#gay #ew” making the rounds. Abington Hospital fired Knott for tweeting potentially sensitive patient information. She also had tweeted her dad, the Chalfont police chief, gave a driver a ticket after she called him and told him the driver ran him off the road. (Abington police, where Karl Knott was employed at the time, said Knott was on a legitimate ridealong and that the two tweets were untrue.)

All three suspects were offered plea deals. Williams and Harrigan took the deals, which did not include jail time, while Knott decided to go to trial. Harrigan, who pleaded to one count each of simple assault and conspiracy, got three years probation and 200 hours of community service. Williams got five years probation and 200 hours of service. Both men are barred from Center City during their probation.

Knott’s trial began last Thursday. Jurors heard arguments for four days. The prosecution called several witnesses who said they saw Knott (or “the girl in the white dress,” as she was the only one wearing a white dress that night) strike Hesse in the face and call him a “fucking faggot.” One prosecution witness, Michelle Moore, had actually taken either Hesse or Haught’s cell phone that night, thinking it was from someone in Knott’s group. She said she planned to sell it or use it, but eventually contacted police returned it to the pair when she saw an initial report of the incident on the news.

Why did she testify? “Because it was wrong,” she said on the stand. “And because I got subpoenaed.”

Hesse testified the incident began with Harrigan asking him, “What is that, your fucking boyfriend?” When he answered in the affirmative, Hesse testified Harrigan replied, “I guess you’re a dirty fucking faggot then.” A scuffle ensued. Hesse testified the word “faggot” was used by Knott’s group more than 20 times.

“To be honest, I’ve lived in Philadelphia for a number of years, and this has never happened to me anywhere,” Haught testified. “Everyone in this group was out to let us know we were ‘dirty fucking faggots.'”

Witnesses for the defense, mostly classmates of Knott’s from Archbishop Wood High School, said Knott was an innocent bystander. They all said she didn’t hit anyone. One witness, Taylor Peltzer, said Haught punched her in the face with a straight left. The prosecution eventually submitted as fact that Haught is right-handed, and defense attorney Louis Busico backed off the punch in closing — saying he didn’t know if Haught punched Peltzer. All of the defense witnesses supported a claim of self defense, despite the odds being 15-on-2 in their favor. Several defense witnesses said Hesse threw someone in their group to the ground, though they differed on which person that was. Hesse himself said he took a swing at someone but did not connect.

One defense witness, Elizabeth Foley — a witness who did not go to Archbishop Wood — took two videos of the event. (A phone call interrupted her recording.) Neither showed Knott strike anyone; the second video did show her running down Chancellor Street followed by a loud “Ohh!” A prosecution witness, Rachel Mondesire, testified she saw “the girl in the white dress” run toward Hesse and punch him, followed by an “Ohh!” Videos taken by a person with Mondesire that night show Haught “gushing” (the word used in the video) blood.

Knott testified Tuesday. She said she didn’t strike anyone, didn’t use gay slurs and that her tweets were taken out of context. She said she only had one glass of wine at the three-hour birthday dinner for Harrigan at La Viola that preceded the incident that night. Her attorney, Busico, said the tweets were old, and did not represent her character.

“I thought the Twitter evidence was irrelevant to the case,” Busico said afterward. “There isn’t a person walking around in this city that could have every social media tweet, text or email scrutinized repeatedly and have to answer for it.”

On cross-examination, Knott said she didn’t believe “dyke” was a hateful word and that it’s OK to call something “gay” (to mean uncool) as long as it’s not said to a gay person. She said nothing like this had ever happened before, which meant the prosecution was allowed to ask about a tweet she said about getting banned from a bar during spring break in Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 2012. Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry also asked her about tweets from a “bros and hos” bike bar crawl.

Knott was supported in the gallery from anywhere from about a dozen to 30 people during her trial, and the defense called three character witnesses. Knott’s best friend and that friend’s mom both said “hundreds of people” know Knott would never do anything like this; her final character witness was her 7th and 8th grade teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel grade school.

Closing arguments were Tuesday. After more than an hour of instruction from Judge Roxanne Covington, jurors began deliberation on Wednesday morning. Afterward, ADA Barry notified the judge of a a Facebook post made by Knott’s cousin Tim Perkins, who said he is a “proud and active member of the LGBTQ+ community.” He wrote Knott “had never once made me feel uncomfortable for being or expressing myself,” but it’s how he ended the post that made Barry bring it up in court.

“To the jury members who have to make a decision tomorrow: please allow Kathryn to go home,” he wrote. Covington said “this can be viewed as juror intimidation,” but since Perkins was not in the courtroom, she just took it under advisement. (Per his Facebook page, he lives in Atlanta.)

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