Witness in Gay-Bashing Trial: “I Thought He Was Dead”
On September 11, 2014, Michelle Moore, then 20 years old, was waiting with her friends at the bus stop at 16th and Walnut; she had just been at the nearby Applebees. But then, as Moore testified Friday during the second day of Kathryn Knott’s assault trial, she heard a loud noise and her friends went running toward the commotion “because it sounded interesting.”
By the time she and her friends arrived at 16th and Chancellor, the incident now known as the Center City gay-bashing had already begun with a barrage of gay slurs directed at the victims, Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught. “You heard the comment ‘Faggot,'” Moore said. Moore didn’t intervene, because “we didn’t know if they had a gun or anything… we’re not stupid.”
Knott is charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and related charges. Her former co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October to assault charges. Knott rejected a plea deal in order to go to trial; she’s been supported by about a dozen family members and friends on both days.
After the group that included Knott, Harrigan and Williams ran from the scene, Moore testified that she and her friends ran across 16th Street to assist Hesse and Haught. “I thought he was dead,” she said of Haught. “He basically had blood all over his face.” Haught had suffered a broken jaw in the attack.
A police officer arrived, and Moore and her friends left the scene. Moore, though, picked up a tote bag she said she thought belonged to someone from Knott’s group. Angry at the group that ran away from the scene, she went through the bag looking for money. She found a phone, a wallet without money and a box of wine. She testified she left the bag at the bus shelter, but took the phone. She eventually got a call on the cell, and — thinking she was talking with someone from Knott’s group — said it wasn’t being returned. She said she planned on using or selling the phone, or even giving it away.
The next day, Moore testified she saw the incident discussed on the Fox 29 news, including a shot of an anchor standing in the alleyway at 16th and Chancellor. The next morning, she called Det. Ralph Domenic, who also testified on Tuesday, and returned the phone — which, it turned out, belonged to one of the victims. Moore testified she had seen a woman with blonde hair punching a man on the ground. At a meeting with Domenic, Moore picked a photo of Kathryn Knott out of an array.
Why was she testifying? “Because it was wrong,” Moore said, “and because I got subpoenaed.” Domenic said neither Hesse nor Haught wanted to press charges over the previously missing phone.
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from Haught, who suffered a broken jaw in the attack. He told the same story Hesse, his boyfriend, told yesterday. He testified that Knott did not attempt to calm down any of her companions.
“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.'” Hesse testified yesterday the instigator of the attack, Harrigan, called him a “dirty fucking faggot” after inquiring if Haught was his boyfriend.
After his jaw was wired shut, Haught testified, he was only able to eat broth for eight weeks. He lost 15 pounds, missed two weeks of work, and was not able to return to work full-time until weeks later. He was in a lot of pain. Dr. Andrew Miller, an oral surgeon who wired Haught’s jaw shut, testified he inserted 16 screws into his face. He said Haught’s injuries were consistent with having been punched just under the nose. “I’ve never felt anything like that,” Haught testified. “It was metal being drilled into my jaw… the doctor put Phillips-head screws into my jaw.” He had to carry around a pair of wire cutters with him at all times the next few weeks, in case there was an emergency where he quickly needed to open his jaw.
Knott is accused of yelling slurs and throwing a punch or slap at Hesse, who testified yesterday that Knott hit him. Moore, her friend Rachel Mondesire, Hesse and Haught have all identified Knott to varying degrees. Mondesire testified “the girl in the white dress” threw a punch, while the other three identified her in court. There was only one woman in a white dress in the group, according to surveillance footage.
Det. Domenic was the last to testify on Friday. He handles special investigations, violent crime, crime patterns and “anything that’s high profile or sensitive” at Central Detectives. He said that, the day after the crime, he and his partner went to 16th and Chancellor. “The very first thing we noticed was blood on the sidewalk,” he said.
Eventually, Domenic and his partner, Det. James Waring, got footage from several local businesses. The only one that showed the faces from Knott’s group was from Republic Bank, on 16th Street. The footage was from after the incident, and showed the group walking north. That was the footage released to the media on September 16th. Domenic said he got tips about the case “almost immediately.”
“Say it aired at 6 o’clock,” Domenic said, “At 6:05, we got tips.”
Domenic said some of the calls into detectives were from attorneys for people in the group shown in surveillance footage. He said the police received calls from about three quarters of the people in the video. This is how the police got a hold of two videos shown in court both today and Thursday: They were taken by a woman in Knott’s group. She brought the videos in on a flash drive.
At least one of those videos suggests that members of the group now seen as aggressors thought they were in the right at the time. The woman making the recording yells, “We have it on video, by the way!” before the group flees north on 16th Street.
Domenic testified that, after the incident, Knott’s group walked north on 16th Street and went into Tir Na Nog. It’s not clear how long they stayed at the bar. Domenic said he and his partner reviewed emergency calls from the night and no one from Knott’s group called 911.
The afternoon of Friday’s trial had one notable delay when one juror got sick after coming back from lunch; Judge Roxanne Covington later said he was getting some breath mints, implying he had thrown up. The trial will resume with Det. Domenic’s cross-examination on Monday. Judge Covington has imposed a gag order, and so neither side can talk to the media.