Witnesses in Kathryn Knott’s Defense Say They Didn’t See Her Hit Anyone

A defense witness said Andrew Haught, who suffered a broken jaw in the incident, punched her during the attack. She and other defense witnesses said Knott did not punch anyone.

Left: Kathryn Knott. Right: A screengrab from surveillance footage released to the public last year. A Philadelphia detective identified the woman in the photo as Knott in court on Friday.

Left: Kathryn Knott. Right: A screengrab from surveillance footage released to the public last year. A Philadelphia detective identified the woman in the photo as Knott in court on Friday.

The victims were also the aggressors.

That’s the picture Kathryn Knott‘s defense attorney, Louis Busico, is attempting to paint. Knott’s defense began making its case today with several of her friends testifying. One man said a victim, Zachary Hesse, pushed him to the ground and later punched him in the head. A woman testified that Andrew Haught punched her in the face so hard that it required her to see a dentist and have dental work done.

The prosecution, meanwhile, is trying to portray those who testified in defense of Knott as a group of old friends attempting to cover for her. The prosecution depicted Knott’s group as uncaring and heartless — one whose members did not call the police until their pictures showed up on the news as suspects the following week. The prosecution also noted that the group went to Tir Na Nog to continue drinking after the altercation.

Knott is charged in the infamous assault of a gay couple that took place on September 11th of last year. Two of Knott’s original co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. Knott rejected a plea deal.

This afternoon contained most of the notable testimony. Patrick Conly testified first. He was at La Viola with Knott’s group, and continued down 16th Street before the altercation. He said he heard Harrigan get into an argument with another man. He testified he “briskly walked” toward them, and was then pushed to the ground by Hesse. He later said the two were involved in a scuffle, and Hesse punched him in the head. He, like all four of Knott’s friends who testified on Monday, said he did not see her strike Hesse in the face. Four prosecution witnesses testified they saw Knott (or “the woman in the white dress”) punch or slap Hesse.

On cross examination, Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry asked why Conly didn’t report being hit in the face to police when he talked to them in September of 2014. Conly said he had. His statement, which was reviewed by Conly and his lawyer before signing it, makes no mention of it. (Barry also attempted to get Conly to show, on him, how Hesse knocked him to the ground, but Busico successfully objected to this. Conly later demonstrated on a member of the court staff.)

Conly, who said the fight “was never 15-on-two” and described it as several isolated fights, said he walked away after he saw Williams punch out Haught because he was concerned for his safety and that of his girlfriend. “You got punched, and you were concerned your girlfriend was going to get punched, and you didn’t leave then?” Barry asked him in court.

Taylor Peltzer was last to testify. She was Harrigan’s girlfriend on September 11th of last year, and organized the surprise party at La Viola for him before the incident. She said she saw one of her friends, Will Morris, get thrown to the ground, and said she jumped into the fray in an attempt to defuse the situation and help Haught find his glasses, which were knocked off his face during the incident.

Then, she said, “Andrew Haught punched me in the face.” No one else today testified they saw Haught punch Peltzer, but several of them testified they heard Philip Williams yell, “You just hit a fucking girl.” The prosecution kept objecting, and every defense witness today was admonished by Judge Roxanne Covington for testifying about things they said they’d heard others say.

On cross examination, Assistant District Attorney Allison Ruth asked why no one from Knott’s group called the police and why they went to Tir Na Nog to continue drinking for another 30 to 45 minutes after the incident. Peltzer said she wasn’t drinking at the bar. “I was crying a lot and kind of sitting in the corner,” she said. “I went to the bathroom and was crying for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then we left.”

Ruth, like her fellow ADA,  questioned why she didn’t call 911 that night, and didn’t contact the police until she saw the video shown on TV. “I didn’t call 911,” Peltzer said. “I was in shock. I was scared.” She also said she had dental work done as a result of being punched; she testified she saw a dentist in Princeton and spent four hours there after experiencing jaw pain. She said she had novocaine and drilling done during her dentist appointment, but couldn’t say what type of work was done. “It started hurting after the punch,” she said.

After a lunch break, Judge Covington brought several scheduled witnesses into the courtroom to tell them to not discuss the case with one another. Peltzer later testified that she talked with defense witness Elizabeth Foley at lunch; Foley testified in the morning. She said Foley did not provide her with any information about the case, and simply gave her a small pep talk. The two were seen talking in the hallway.

Before Conly and Peltzer, a couple testified. Foley, who took the videos of part of the incident that have been shown frequently during the trial, said she didn’t see much during the event. She took two videos of the incident; a phone call from a friend that she declined interrupted the filming and caused her to miss some of it. The second video Foley took shows Knott running toward the group fighting.

Foley’s boyfriend, John McCabe, testified that he saw Hesse push Conly to the ground. He said he was a bystander, and he left after he saw Williams hit Haught (who then went to the ground). Barry asked him if he left his girlfriend, who was filming the incident, behind at first. “Unfortunately, yes,” McCabe said. Barry spent much of his cross-examination establishing that all of those testifying today were longtime friends; Conley, Peltzer and McCabe all went to Archbishop Wood High School in Bucks County. (Foley went to Gwynedd Mercy.)

All four of the defense witnesses today testified they did not see Knott hit anyone. In contrast to testimony last week, none of them said they heard any gay slurs. Both Hesse and Haught said several members of Knott’s group called them “faggots” multiple times.

The Prosecution Rests

The morning was full of stops and starts. The prosecution had two more questions for Det. Ralph Domenic, who testified last Friday. The second was regarding the profession of Knott’s father, Chalfont Township Police Chief Karl Knott. In tweets that made the rounds after Knott’s arrest, she had said her father — while with the Abington police force — let her kick down the door on a raid and ticketed a driver after Knott said he ran her off the road. (Abington Police said those two tweets were untrue.)

Busico objected to the relevance of the question, and the two sides argued it out in chambers. Eventually, the objection was sustained. Busico then began his cross-examination, questioning the interview tactics used by Domenic when talking to 17 subjects he or his partner interviewed during the case. He insinuated the earlier witnesses only came forward in an attempt to gain reward money.

This led to, on redirect, a discussion of social media’s impact on the case. Domenic said none of the witnesses attempted to claim the reward, and the only person who did was pseudonymous Twitter user @FanSince09. The user behind the account, originally a parody of Phillies fans who bashed 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels during his subpar 2009 season and playoffs, appeared on The View to discuss social media’s involvement in the case.

Domenic appears to be talking about a photo posted to social media by Greg Bennett, a former cast member on Real Housewives of New Jersey who tweeted a photo of Harrigan’s birthday party at La Viola before the incident along with surveillance stills released by police. @FanSince09 was in contact with Greg Bennett that night; Bennett tweeted last year he got the photo from a friend of a friend.

@FanSince09 tweeted he actually did send police several names after seeing Bennett’s photo; a Twitter DM screenshot he gave Billy Penn shows him sending two names to a man he says is a police officer. (The officer replies the police believed they have all the people involved already, but to keep sending names.) Quite a diversion, all to rebut Busico’s implication witnesses are hoping for monetary gain. One witness on Friday did testify she grabbed a bag she thought was from Knott’s group, hoping it contained money. (It turns out the bag was either Hesse’s or Haught’s.)

Knott’s trial resumes Tuesday morning.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.