Kathryn Knott Testifies, Says Tweets Taken Out of Context

On trial for assault, Kathryn Knott said she didn't strike anyone or use gay slurs during an assault on a gay couple last year. Closing arguments are later this afternoon. The case will then head to the jury.

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 last Friday.

Kathryn Knott said she didn’t do anything wrong.

The defendant, accused of aggravated assault and related charges in the 2014 beating of a gay couple in Center City, took the stand today in her defense. Knott, who lives with her parents in Southampton, recalled the events of September 11th of last year. She said she did not strike anyone and did not call anyone a “faggot” as several prosecution witnesses testified.

She said she didn’t see what started the incident, but turned around to see Pat Conley — who testified yesterday — on the ground. (Conly says one of the victims, Zachary Hesse, pushed or threw him to the ground.) Knott’s co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. They did not receive jail time; Knott rejected that plea deal.

She said she didn’t really see the incident, as employees in the FedEx store at 16th and Chancellor were banging on the windows and that drew her attention. She said she ran toward Williams in an attempt to prevent him from striking Andrew Haught. “I didn’t want anyone getting hurt,” she said. “I was trying to calm the situation.”

The defense also brought up four of her tweets, which were among those widely shared in the press after her arrest last year. Knott attempted to explain them.

  • @krisssstenxoxo the ppl we were just dancing with just turned and mafe out with eatch other #gay #ew — Knott said she was actually disgusted by the public display of affection, and not the fact that the people were gay. She said she had many gay friends and relatives and would never use that word as a slur to a gay person.
  • this camo song is gay like all the other brad paisley songs — Knott said she is a huge country music and Brad Paisley fan, but did not like this particular song.
  • @g0_nads he’s gonna rip me today for my hair..just wait. #dyke — Knott said she looked like a mess that day, and this tweet was a way to tell her coworker this.
  • Jazz flute is for little fairy boys — This tweet is a quote from the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

Then came cross-examination. When asked by Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry if “dyke” was a hateful word, she said it wasn’t. She said the word “wasn’t on her everyday vocabulary list” but that she didn’t see it as a slur. “I think our interpretation of words is different,” Knott said. “What’s said there is not demeaning to anyone.” Knott also said, since she’s used it in the past, that “it’s OK” to use the word gay to mean something uncool. “I just used it in a very loose way,” she said. “I didn’t mean it in a derogatory way.”

ADA Barry then quoted several lines from Anchorman, including “Stay classy, San Diego.” She said she doesn’t consider her tweet, which is a line said by Christina Applegate‘s Veronica Corningstone character, offensive. “It’s a line from a movie,” she testified. She did say she wouldn’t use any of the words in her tweet when speaking with a gay person.

The prosecution challenged several of Knott’s statements, including her statement she had just one glass of wine during a three-hour dinner party. The jury was also shown a video, which has not been released to the press but has been shown multiple times in court, that does not show any employees banging on the FedEx Office windows. No banging from the FedEx store is heard in the video.

When asked why she didn’t call 911 or go to the police, Knott said her friend who went to Philadelphia Police, Fran McGlinn, was “fired on the spot” for doing so. (The friend went to police the next week, and not the night of the incident.) Knott was eventually fired from her job at Abington Hospital for tweeting potentially sensitive patient information when her feed became public knowledge.

She said she didn’t know Haught was seriously hurt — he broke his jaw in the incident — and ran away because she was bothered by the incident. She said she was fearful someone would attack her. A photo shows her leaving the scene with Williams. “You were so bothered,” Barry said. “You went out with him afterward?” The group of 15 went to Tir Na Nog for about 30-45 minutes after the incident. Knott said she heard ambulances going by, but did not connect them to the incident because “it’s Center City. There are ambulances all over the place.”

After a long break to discuss a defense objection, the prosecution was allowed to ask about additional tweets Knott made. “We just got banned from the bar in hilton head,” a tweet she made during spring break in 2012 read. The prosecution also asked about a tweet she wrote about a “bros and hos” bike bar crawl she attended in 2013.

The defense then called seven character witnesses, a total that is common for a trial of this nature. Most of the witnesses were from Bucks County. They all said a variation on this statement: “Kathryn enjoys an excellent reputation as a peaceful, nonviolent person.” One witness, Nicholas Ortiz, said he “was informed I have to speak this way so my testimony will not be stricken under Pennsylvania law.”

While cross-examining one of those character witnesses, Knott’s best friend Megan Malatesta, the prosecution brought up two additional tweets. “A guy ran me off the road, called my dad ran his license, and got him ticket #sorrynotsorry #lovemydad,” one read. “@garlicknott dad just let me kick down a door on a raid #epic,” was the other. (“Garlic Knott” was a brother’s Twitter handle at the time.) Her father is Chalfont Township Police Chief Karl Knott; at the time of these tweets, he was on the Abington police force.

Abington Police Chief William Kelly has said Knott was on a “legitimate ride along” in regards to the second, and that both tweets were untrue.

Both Malatesta, and her mother, Mary Bontempo, testified that “hundreds” of people know Knott to be a peaceful person. Bontempo said she has personally told 50 or 60 people that Knott is innocent in this case.

The last character witness was her seventh and eighth grade teacher from Our Lady of Good Counsel.

The prosecution added one more piece of evidence just before the close of trial: Andrew Haught is right-handed. That’s important, because friend Taylor Peltzer testified yesterday she was hit with a straight left by Haught on the night of the incident.

Closing arguments are later this afternoon. The case will then head to the jury.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.