Kathryn Knott Jurors Explain Their Split Verdict
It was an offhand comment Kathryn Knott made in cross examination that bothered Aristeo Duenas a lot.
Knott was convicted today of simple assault, reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit simple assault in the September 11th, 2014, assault on a gay couple in Center City. (She was acquitted of six other charges, including felony aggravated assault.) One of the victims, Andrew Haught, suffered a broken jaw in the attack. The other victim, Zach Hesse, suffered a black eye.
On the stand, Knott said she didn’t know Haught was seriously hurt in the attack. The group of 15 she was with continued down 16th Street after the incident and went to Tir Na Nog afterward. They did not call 911. Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry asked her if she thought the sirens she heard on the street that night may have been related to the fight.
Knott said no, because in Center City, “you see ambulances here all the time.” Speaking to the media outside the Criminal Justice Center, Duenas — a 33-year-old teacher who lives in Brewerytown — said this wasn’t his experience at all.
“She said, ‘We’re in the city, there’s ambulances going by,'” Duenas said. “I live in the city. I rode my bike here. There aren’t always ambulances going by. It’s not this violent part of the city. They’re at 16th and Chancellor. That’s not a violent part of the city — well, it wasn’t. It became one.”
Duenas and another juror, 37-year-old Gina Cook of Roxborough, said they both wanted to convict on all charges. They said a majority of jurors — about 10, Duenas said — agreed, but there were a few holdouts.
“Basically, towards the end, we kind of had to come to this agreement that justice had to be served,” Duenas said. “We could have easily been a hung jury, but we decided we needed to come to a decision. … We didn’t get as much as we wanted, but we got something.”
Cook and Duenas both said they did not feel Knott was remorseful at all for her role in the incident. They were particularly struck that no one in her group called 911 that night. “When you do nothing, you do something,” Cook said. “It’s not quantum physics.” Meaning: Inaction during and following an incident like the beating last September 11th is still an action.
Defense attorney Louis Busico said Knott wanted to testify. Duenas said a majority of the jury thought she did not come off well on the stand, especially comments about tweets she’d made.
“We were pretty disgusted,” Duenas said. “It was pretty embarrassing to watch her testify. All of it was right in front of her. You know, she would have become a better character to me if she said, ‘You know what, I messed up, I said those things, it was stupid.’ I felt like she had this air of invincibility that whatever she was thinking, everyone else was thinking.”
The foreperson of the jury, 67-year-old Joan Bellinger, said she thought the tweets were largely irrelevant. She said she came into the case thinking Knott shouldn’t be convicted, but as the trial went on she realized she wanted to convict.
“I just felt so bad for [the victims],” she said. “This is so unnecessary. It just never should have happened. Everything about it was wrong. It’s just not fair to them. It’s not fair to anyone with any sensibility. It’s just not fair that this kind of thing happens … all the evidence supported her guilt.”
Cook and Duenas each said they hoped Knott gets jail time in the case. Sentencing is February 8th; Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry wouldn’t say what he would ask for at that time. Cook added that, although she wanted to convict on all charges, she still thought justice was done.
“We did the best that we could,” Cook said. “Our hearts … break for Andrew and Zach. We just hope they trust that we did everything that we could.”
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