Philadelphia jurors saw five previously unreleased videos Thursday — blurry cell phone footage captured the night a group of people attacked a gay couple in Center City more than a year ago.
One shows a woman presumed to be Kathryn G. Knott, 25, of Bucks County, wearing a white dress and standing near an argument that turned ugly. Another shows her rushing toward a group of people where one of the men was being brutally beaten.
Three others, short clips shown to a jury Thursday, depict victim Andrew Haught sitting on the concrete of Chancellor Street, blood gushing from his face and into his hands as he rocks back and forth, moaning, before the ambulance arrived.
But Knott’s defense attorney, Louis Busico of Newtown, says his client didn’t touch anyone on Sept. 11, 2014, the night when the now-infamous Center City gay bashing incident occurred at 16th and Chancellor shortly before 11 p.m. Instead, he’s depicted this as an unfortunate fight between four grown men — two of them a gay couple, and the other two being Knott’s co-defendants Philip R. Williams, 25, and Kevin J. Harrigan, 27, both of whom accepted plea deals in the case.
The defense has also on multiple occasions drawn attention to another woman standing in the area: A woman wearing a black dress who was apparently swatted at by Haught. That woman, Busico says, is not Kathryn Knott.
“The woman is pointing out a man, then he hits her,” Busico said in his opening statement. “That’s when all hell breaks loose.”
Thursday marked the first day of testimony in the case against Knott, who faces two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, two counts of recklessly endangering another person and conspiracy in the assault that left one man in the hospital for five days with a broken face and a wiring device in his jaw for eight weeks.
Knott didn’t accept a plea deal offered to her by the district attorney, despite her co-defendants pleading guilty and being sentenced to only probation and community service. The victims in the case have delivered interviews and approved the plea deals in the name of “mercy and education.”
The cell phone videos that haven’t been publicly released were played during the testimony of Zachary Hesse, 29, one of the victims in the gay bashing case, and the boyfriend of Haught, who faced the most severe injuries. While being questioned by Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry, Hesse described walking down Chancellor Street to get pizza with Haught, side-by-side, when they were approached by Harrigan who yelled at the couple, “What, is that your fucking boyfriend?”
Hesse responded, “Yeah, that is my fucking boyfriend.”
Harrigan shot back, moving closer toward Hesse and saying, “Oh, so you’re a dirty fucking faggot?” Hesse responded, “maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot.”
“I’ve never had anybody speak to me like that,” Hesse said in court Thursday. “I was in shock.”
It was that exchange, Hesse testified, that kicked off a series of events that began with Harrigan and Hesse pushing and shoving each other and ended with them being overtaken by more than a dozen people, and Haught being knocked out cold, bleeding profusely on the sidewalk.
Prosecutors presented the blue, blood-stained shirt Hesse was wearing that night. And Hesse choked up when he saw the button-down, collared shirt his boyfriend was wearing, now covered in dark red and brown bloodstains.
He admitted under cross examination that the night was a blur. He wasn’t able to identify anyone in the videos, save for Haught who was sitting on the ground bleeding after the crowd of people had left. But he did say that he could unequivocally identify Knott as the woman who called him a “fucking faggot” and then hit him in the face.
And, he noted through being questioned by prosecutors, that he hadn’t seen any videos or photos of anyone alleged to have taken part in the assault until after he’d given a statement to detectives.
The assistant district attorney also showed the jury photos of both men taken several days after the Sept. 11, 2014 incident. Hesse had a black eye and swollen cheeks. But Haught’s face was deeply bruised, with a large cut down his bottom lip and, at the time, 14 screws were holding his cheek bones in place.
Hesse described other photos taken of Haught shortly after he was in surgery for several hours, tearing up when a photo of Haught covered in ice bags flashed across the screen.
“His face doesn’t normally look like that at all,” Hesse testified. “He still has a scar.” And when asked if his injuries were similar to what his boyfriend suffered, he said “not even close,” saying earlier that “the cops thought someone was shot because there was so much blood.”
But despite two videos showing a woman who is purported to be Knott in the area of the fight, there is no video evidence of her making physical contact with anyone at the scene, and two eyewitnesses who testified, one from the street level and another who was looking down from his apartment, were unable to identify her specifically as someone who had actually thrown a punch.
And in his opening statement, Knott’s attorney argued that the anti-gay tweets that were widely circulated after she was charged are only a distraction from the fact that there is no video or physical evidence — at least at this point — that Knott assaulted anyone.
The trial in the Court of Common Pleas being overseen by Judge Roxanne Covington will continue Friday morning.