Closing Arguments Complete in Kathryn Knott Trial; Jury to Get Case Tomorrow
Kathryn Knott’s fate will soon be in the jury’s hands.
Knott is on trial for aggravated assault, conspiracy and related charges stemming from the beating of a gay couple at 16th and Chancellor streets on September 11th, 2014. One of the victims, Andrew Haught, suffered a broken jaw; Zachary Hesse suffered at least one black eye. Two of Knott’s co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, pleaded guilty in October. Knott rejected a plea.
Jurors heard closing arguments from both Knott’s attorney, Newtown’s Louis Busico, and Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry. Busico attempted to convince jurors that Knott did not strike Zachary Hesse and did not use any slurs on September 11th of last year. Barry was more blunt.
“This is a hate crime, right?” Barry said to begin his closing argument. “Let’s stop beating around the bush… Ms. Knott put herself in that chair because she doesn’t like gay people.” Knott testified on Tuesday morning about the night of the incident and her tweets. She said she didn’t strike anyone, didn’t call anyone a “faggot” — as both Hesse and Haught testified — and that her tweets were taken out of context. (She also said it’s OK to call something uncool “gay” as long as you’re not referring to a gay person, and said she didn’t find the word “dyke” hateful. She used both words in tweets.)
Busico’s closing argument, which lasted about 55 minutes, attempted to put the idea of reasonable doubt in the jury’s minds. He reminded jurors any small doubt means they have to vote not guilty. He said her alleged punch doesn’t rise to the level of aggravated assault (which must be an attack designed to inflict “serious bodily harm”). While acknowledging the incident was terrible, Busico said it was the fault of Harrigan and Williams and not his client.
“Philip Williams and Kevin Harrigan,” he yelled at one point, “you are no friend to her.” Neither appeared to be in court, though Knott had 25-30 friends and family supporting her in court.
He attacked prosecution witnesses, saying some of them were only in it for the possible reward. (While a reward was discussed in the media, it was not claimed. The only person who attempted to get the reward was Twitter user @FanSince09, who Det. Ralph Domenic testified “did not” solve the case.) Busico said Domenic didn’t ask the right questions of witnesses; he also identified inconsistencies in prosecution witnesses accounts and said none of the videos shown in court show Knott striking anyone or saying “faggot.”
Oddly enough, Busico also backed off a claim he made in his opening argument, and one Taylor Peltzer testified to in court yesterday: That Haught punched Peltzer in her jaw. He said he didn’t know if it was a punch.
“On that tape, you don’t ever see [Knott] say a word,” Busico said. “You never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever see her touch somebody.… don’t be distracted by things that didn’t happen on September 11th, 2014. Look here — the pitch is here.”
Barry’s closing was about 80 minutes long. He rebutted Busico’s arguments about prosecution witnesses, saying they all came forward of their own volition before any videos of suspects were shown on TV. He said they were not interested in reward money. He said five witnesses identified Knott to varying degrees. “Why does this keep happening?” Barry asked. “Is she the unluckiest person in the world, or did she do it?”
He attacked defense witnesses, saying they colluded to make up a story that Hesse and Haught were the aggressors on September 11th of last year. (Two witnesses were seen talking in a hallway.) He said the group, many of whom were friends from Archbishop Wood High School in Bucks County, was attempting to cover for Knott after identifying Williams and Harrigan as the fall guys. “Half her answers she didn’t even finish,” Barry said of one witness. Another, he said, constantly evaded questions. He said Peltzer lied about being punched. “The lies stack upon the lies,” he said. “Did you notice all the witnesses were so unwilling to describe what was happening?”
Barry said Knott’s tweets show she is someone who does not like gay people. “Slurs are so common to her that she types them out on her phone,” he said. He also said she was part of the conspiracy of the attack when she joined in, saying people do not have to plan in advance in order to be charged with conspiracy. (To explain this, he referenced the Phillies assisting the Rockies grounds crew in 2007, saying the Phillies did not decide in advance to help them — they all just did. Yes, each side made a baseball reference in its closing argument.)
He ended with a speech about how Knott’s group, after Haught was left bloodied and beaten on Chancellor Street, walked to Tir Na Nog to continue to drink. “Haught was laying on the ground unconscious,” he said. “That’s what Knott and her friends looked at when they walked away.” He showed the video from the Republic Bank MAC machine (the one that was released to the media) which he said showed a group of smiling, uncaring people.
“She walked away that night,” he concluded. “Do not let her walk away now.”
Judge Roxanne Covington dismissed the jury for the day, and will give instructions tomorrow morning. Then, it will be for jurors to decide.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.