Wrapping Our Heads Around the Center City Gay Bashing Case

Via Shutterstock.

Via Shutterstock.

Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught. Know those names?

They’re the victims of the much publicized Philadelphia gay bashing case, and I’m willing to wager that most people can’t immediately associate who these gentlemen are, but they sure do know who Kathryn Knott is. If you ask me, that’s a damn shame.

And, of course, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock today, you’ve heard the news that two of the three defendants in the case—Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams—took a plea deal this morning which prevented them from landing jail time. Ms. Knott turned that plea deal down and will go to trial.

It became pretty clear to me after speaking with Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry last month that the victims truly did not want a highly-publicized trial. Clearly, what was taking so long for the case to move forward were negotiations with the defendants. As someone close to case told me, “We don’t want Zachary and Andrew to feel like anyone is pressuring them into something they don’t want.” In fact, District Attorney Seth Williams has since stated that the plea bargain is something the victims wanted from the start.

Two of the defendants escaped jail time. According to our earlier report, Harrigan will serve three years probation and Williams will serve five. They must perform 200 hours of community service at an LGBT center (who would want them), and they are banned from entering Center City during their probationary period.

Keep in mind that the plea deal isn’t a huge surprise, and that Harrigan and Williams will never go back to living any sort of a normal life. This stuff is going to follow them forever: All it is going to take is a simple Google search for any potential employer to see their histories. Is it jail time? No. Is it fully just? No. Are their lives forever ruined, given that this is an internet world? Pretty much, and rightfully so.

That leaves the problem of Kathryn Knott, the defendant who one might argue is the most most hated of the three thanks to her now notorious Twitter feed. Will she get off easy? That all depends on how her defense attorney structures her case and the jury. There’s already a lot of vitriol out there surrounding Knott, and, again, that’s arguably valid.

However, the larger problem with what remains is the fact that there’s going to be a trial, and that the victims are going to have to re-live this entire nightmare all over again. I’d argue it’s the last thing that they really wanted to do.

We’ll also have to see Knott’s mugshot plastered all over the internet until her trial comes and goes, as if we really wanted to look at that again.

People are hurting over today’s decision, and that’s totally and completely valid. However, there’s several things that we need to remember: These three defendants will never go back to living normal lives, ever. They’ll have the weight of their actions on their backs, even if they weren’t physically locked in a prison cell.

And let’s not forget Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught.