Here’s Why It Has Taken So Long for the Center City Gay Bashing Trial

And why October 15th will be a pivotal date in the case.

Defendants Kevin Harrigan, Kathryn Knott and Philip Williams

Defendants Kevin Harrigan, Kathryn Knott and Philip Williams

Court was back in session this morning for the Center City gay bashing case. According to Mike Barry, the Assistant District Attorney who is representing the two victims, the next hearing is scheduled for October 15th, at which point the defendants will either have to accept a plea deal or go to trial. The three defendants are facing aggravated assault, simple assault, and conspiracy charges in the September 2014 attack on two gay men in Center City.

Yes, this is another delay, but it is important to keep in mind that this is part of legal procedure.

“The frustrating part of this case is that it isn’t a normal case,” said Barry. This is the first non-homicide case that he’s taken in 10 years, and he says it’s because of the unique nature of the attacks.

“I’m talking to the victims at least two or three times a week,” Barry said. “Frankly, all of that takes time. We’re going to do this until we feel completely comfortable with every detail at every level.”

That “time” is normal for a case of this magnitude, and although members of the LGBT community and Philadelphia at large may be aggravated and frustrated at what seems like things are progressing at a glacial pace, it’s normal legal procedure.

It’s also extremely important to keep in mind that the legal team handling this particular case has kept something very important in mind as they progress: the victims.

“[The victims] Zach and Andrew are at the forefront,” said Barry. “A very strong consideration for us is not having this case played out in the public.

“That’s why it took several months to decide on charges,” Barry added.

Nellie Fitzpatrick, the City’s Director of LGBT Affairs, agreed.

“The priority and focus has to be on the victims,” Fitzpatrick said. “There are things that need to be protected and not thrown out in the spotlight. The victims should be cared for and respected.”

She added that, although she fully understands that the wait is difficult for the LGBT community at large, that there are ethics and procedure that need to be followed. The former A.D.A. would know: She’s tried thousands of cases that dealt with extremely sensitive matters, from rape to sexual assault.

“[The wait] is not out of the ordinary,” she added. “For example, the victims not being here during the hearings is all standard. We have to keep in mind what the victims want.”

Part of the process in this case is the collaborative nature of the work between the D.A.’s office, the Police Department, and the Office of LGBT Affairs.

“The law enforcement has been spectacular,” said Fitzpatrick. Barry agreed, and added that Brian Sims’ office has been a huge support.

“We’re keeping in mind what people want out of the case,” said Barry. “But our main attention is for the victims to get what they need.”

Fitzpatrick agreed.

“It’s time that we remember the absolutely horrible reason that this case exists to begin with, that this incident happened here in Philadelphia” she said. “We need to turn this back around to the victims.”