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The Bucks County woman who was convicted of helping to beat up a gay couple in Center City in the fall of 2014 was sentenced Monday to spend five to 10 months in prison and serve two years of probation.
It’s been a long time coming for Kathryn G. Knott, 25, who was convicted in December in the case stemming from more than a year prior that became widely known as the Center City gay-bashing incident. A Philadelphia jury convicted Knott on charges of simple assault, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of conspiracy but acquitted her on two felony charges of aggravated assault. Her acquittal on those more serious charges, though apparently controversial in the jury room, meant she escaped what could have been more serious prison time.
“This behavior is a violation of human rights,” said Judge Roxanne Covington in sentencing Knott. Prosecutors had sought a sentence of nine to 23 months, but said today that they were happy with the judge’s decision. She also must pay upwards of $2,000 in fines and court costs and is banned from coming into Philadelphia throughout the duration of her probation, except to attend to probation-related issues.
Knott audibly sobbed after the sentence was read by the judge, and her mother got up to stand near her in an attempt to comfort her. Her defense attorney asked that the judge allow Knott to turn herself in to be processed, but the judge denied that request and Knott was taken into custody immediately. She offered a tearful apology to the victims in the courtroom, saying: “You two absolutely did not deserve what happened to you.”
Covington had more harsh words for Knott before today’s hearing ended, specifically with regard to testimony that said Knott used the word “faggot” repeatedly throughout the assault. The judge also excoriated Knott for leaving the scene where one of the victims was bleeding and semi-conscious on the ground.
“This could have been any of us and while these were homophobic slurs… It could have been any type of hateful word,” Covington said, adding that the state legislature has not “properly” labeled the actions as a hate crime though “these actions were very hateful.” Knott was not charged with a hate crime, though the case set off conversations about amending the statewide hate crime statute to include sexual orientation.
“There was a lack of appreciation for the seriousness of this crime,” Covington added. “Working in the medical field, I don’t know how you could walk away and leave someone bleeding on the street.”
Prosecutor Mike Barry said after the trial that the victims in the case, a gay couple who both testified during trial to being beaten by a group of about 15 people, were happy with the outcome.
“They were just trying to go home,” Barry said of the night in question. “And that’s still what they’re trying to do. Just to go home from this and have it be over with.”
Fifteen people, including friends and family members, wrote letters of support for Knott that were submitted to the judge prior to sentencing. Knott’s parents left the courthouse without speaking to members of the press.
Knott’s defense attorney Louis Busico, of Newtown, asked the court to sentence Knott to probation and submitted that there “has been punishment.”
“I ask that this court consider that Ms. Knott has been held accountable in ways we usually don’t see in the criminal justice system,” he said, repeatedly saying she was severely criticized by the media.
Barry responded to that in his argument, saying: “I don’t want to hear about what she has to carry around when [the victim] has a physical scar on his face for the rest of his life.”
One of the men who was beaten, Zachary Hesse, sustained minor injuries, but his boyfriend Andrew Haught was beaten to a bloody pulp and was hospitalized for nearly a week, having to have his jaw wired shut for more than six weeks to fix his broken facial bones. Haught offered testimony Monday during the sentencing hearing saying there was one thing about the assault that he “could not get past.”
“I will never forget that every single member of that group, including Kathryn Knott,” he said, “left me in that alleyway to die.”
After the incident took place on Sept. 11, 2014, police released surveillance footage of the group of individuals involved and shortly thereafter, police felt they had enough evidence to charge Knott along with her co-defendants, Philip R. Williams, 25, and Kevin J. Harrigan, 27. Williams and Harrigan both pleaded guilty and escaped jail time while Knott elected to go to trial.
Busico brought this up during his sentencing argument, saying that if Knott were to face a harsher punishment than Williams and Harrigan, she’d be faulted for exercising her constitutional right to go to trial.
He also said that he went to the assistant district attorney and attempted to make a plea deal early on in the process. However, Barry said that offer — pleading guilty and being sentenced to ARD so her record could be expunged — wasn’t appropriate.
Throughout the four-day trial in the courtroom of Judge Covington, who sentenced Knott today, Barry and co-counsel described Knott as a bigot who “does not like gay people,” starting off his closing arguments with the phrase “This is a hate crime.” Hesse, Haught and eyewitnesses testified they heard members of Knott’s group screaming “fucking faggots” while they were beating the couple on the side of the street.
Meanwhile, Busico described the two men as the aggressors and Knott as an innocent bystander who never hit or punched anyone. During closing arguments, Busico called Harrigan and Williams the aggressors, saying Harrigan has a “big arrogant mouth” and calling Williams, who witnesses say delivered the most punishing blows to Haught’s face, “crazed.”
“There was more time spent about her college tweeting habits and her college activities than there were about Sept. 11, 2014,” he said. “…It’s the window dressing. It’s the ‘look over here’ moment.”
Knott testified in her own defense and denied ever using the word “faggot” throughout the incident, though Hesse testified she yelled the slur before hitting him in the face.
She also spent part of her testimony defending herself after prosecutors had introduced four tweets she sent that could be construed as anti-gay — tweets that drew national attention to her, specifically. For example, she once tweeted “the ppl we were dancing with just turned and mafe [sic] out with each other #gay #ew.” Another tweet was about how she thought didn’t look good coming to work that day, to which she added the hashtag “#dyke.”
Knott said her tweets were “taken out of context” and said that would have never used a word like “dyke” in front of a gay person, and then got into a back-and-forth with the prosecutor about the semantics of the word and whether or not it’s hateful or a slur.
Barry disagreed, adding that her previous conversations and statements were proof that she wanted to get involved in late-night beat-down of a gay couple.
“On that day, she wasn’t seeing these two men as human beings…” he said. “She saw a ‘faggot’.”