Woman ordered to jail in Center City gay attack

Kathryn Knott, convicted in December in the 2014 attack on a gay couple, arrives at court with her mother, Carol.
Kathryn Knott, convicted in December in the 2014 attack on a gay couple, arrives at court with her mother, Carol. (CLEM MURRAY /Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 10, 2016

In sentencing Kathryn Knott to jail time instead of probation in an attack on a gay couple in Center City in 2014, a Philadelphia judge said Monday that the victim "could have been any of us."

"While there were homophobic slurs that initiated this event, it could have been any type of hateful slur," Common Pleas Court Judge Roxanne Covington said.

The judge sentenced Knott, 25, of Southampton, Bucks County, to five to 10 months in jail and ordered her "to surrender now."

Knott shook and wept upon hearing her sentence and the judge's order that she go to jail immediately.

She hugged her mother, Carol, and her father, Karl, the Chalfont police chief, before being led away.

Covington said that while the legislature "has not properly recognized" attacks on gay people as a hate crime, "these actions are still hateful."

What happened to the victims "is a violation of human rights and this court recognizes it as such," Covington said.

Before being sentenced, Knott, her voice shaking, apologized to the victims, but did not admit punching anyone or yelling antigay slurs.

"I am so sorry for what happened to you both," she said, looking at Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught, seated in the front row.

"I ask you now for your forgiveness," she said, saying this incident "has educated people, me included."

The judge also ordered her to serve two years' probation after her jail term, pay a $2,000 fine, and undergo anger management classes, and banned her from coming to Philadelphia during her probation unless required to do so.

The judge said testimony showed that as Hesse was held back by another person during the attack, "Ms. Knott threw a punch at him."

The victims also testified that Knott was one of the people yelling an antigay slur.

The sentence was in the guideline range, and was less than the nine to 23 months that Assistant District Attorneys Michael Barry and Allison Ruth sought.

Defense attorney Louis R. Busico asked for probation.

"Her life has been threatened. She's been excoriated locally, regionally and nationally," Busico said. "I submit to this court, there has been punishment in this case."

Barry told the judge that if Knott had taken a deal for a probationary sentence, like her two codefendants, the victims wouldn't have had to undergo a trial.

"All they wanted was for this to be over," Barry said of the victims, "and for someone to admit they did wrong."

Barry also brought up tweets by Knott, years before the attack, in which she made condescending comments about gay and lesbian people and other minorities. Noting that Knott, a former emergency room technician, no longer works in the medical field, Barry told the judge, "I say, 'Thank God.' "

Knott was convicted by a jury in December of four misdemeanor counts - simple assault, conspiracy to commit simple assault, and two counts of reckless endangerment - but was acquitted of felony charges of aggravated assault.

Knott had been part of a group of 15 friends who encountered the couple at 16th and Chancellor Streets about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 2014. One in her group, Kevin Harrigan, began insulting Hesse and Haught, who were both in their upper 20s.

In an ensuing scuffle, Hesse and Haught were punched multiple times, and Haught was knocked to the ground by Philip Williams, a friend of Knott's.

Knott's group then left, heading to a bar, as Haught lay bleeding and semiconscious.

In court Monday, Haught testified that the "one thing I cannot get past" from what happened that night is that Knott and her friends "left us."

They looked "carefree," he said, as they walked away, as captured on a surveillance video.

"Not one of them called for help," he said.

In October, Williams, 25, of Warminster, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault; Harrigan, 27, of Warrington, to simple assault. Both were sentenced to probation - Williams got five years and Harrigan, three - and community service, and banned from coming to Center City while on probation.

Asked after Monday's hearing if he planned to appeal, Busico said he was "reviewing all options."

shawj@phillynews.com

215-854-2592@julieshawphilly

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