Gay-Bashing Victim Relives Assault at Court Hearing

WARNING: This article contains some explicit language.

Kathryn Knott, Kevin Harrigan, and Phillip Williams haven’t seen the last of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. The three suspects in the Center City beating of a gay couple will face an arraignment early next year on aggravated assault and conspiracy charges.

The three friends accused in the attack sat before Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden on Tuesday morning for a preliminary hearing. Representing the commonwealth, Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry questioned two witnesses: one of the victims, Zachart Hesse and Geoff Nagle, a witness who saw the altercation go down from his apartment window.

Hesse relived the encounter for everyone in the room.

Hesse, 28, testified he and his boyfriend, Andrew Haught, 27, were on their way to get pizza on the evening of Thursday Sep. 11 when they were assaulted by a group of ten or more men and women on 16th and Chancellor. Hesse said the attackers made homophobic comments before and after they beat up the couple.

According to Hesse, Harrigan, 26, asked "Is that your fucking boyfriend?" as the two parties approached each other. "Yeah he is my fucking boyfriend. Do you have a problem with that?" replied Hesse. Harrigan countered with, "So you’re a dirty, fucking faggot?" "Maybe I am a dirty, fucking faggot," said Hesse.

What followed was a face-to-face physical encounter between Harrigan and Hesse. Each side blames the other for instigating the attack. The couple was surrounded and endured a brutal beating. Hesse reported having his arms held while a woman in a white dress--allegedly Knott, 24—clawed at his face while she yelled, "Fuck you, faggot!"

Haught was left half-conscious in a pool of his own blood and driven to Hahnemann University Hospital for treatment. Both victims suffered black eyes and cuts to the face, but Haught was knocked out with two broken cheekbones and needed his jaw wired shut for seven or eight weeks.

Hesse described the entire pushing, shoving, and screaming ordeal as "messy" and couldn’t recall certain details when asked.

The defendants’ lawyers attempted to use this to their advantage during the cross-examinations in which they badgered Hesse with confusing questions to expose holes in his story.

They also asked the judge to reduce charges of aggravated assault and get rid of conspiracy charges for all involved.

Harrigan’s lawyer, Josh Scarpello, claimed the group was not working together because two different fights took place -- the initial altercation with his client and Hesse and the second one occurring when the girl became involved. His version of events sees Harrigan "retreat from the battle" after that first punch.

Scarpello blamed Hesse for starting the fight, claiming he used "fighting words" when he asked Harrigan if he had a problem instead of just walking away.

Knott’s lawyer, Lou Busico, said Nagle saw a woman pointing a finger during the incident, but couldn’t say it was Kathryn. He also says if she was the one to claw at Hesse’s face, she caused no bodily harm.

Using Nagle’s testimony, Williams’s attorney, Fred Perri, claimed his client was not "one of the initial aggressors" and only became involved when one of the men punched a woman. "We will plead absolutely not guilty and we will defend ourselves at trial. His actions were justified that night," he said.

Barry sees it in a very different light. He says there is no record of a woman being hit and the conspiracy charges are evident from the group's conduct. He feels people were fine with joining in after Harrigan hit Hesse and no one chose to walk away until Haught was barely conscious on the ground.

"I have no doubt this was about their sexual orientation," he said. "No other interaction, no other reason for action. Just simply [the group] coming up to them and slurring them for who they are."

The suspects will be formally charged and learn of any future court proceedings on Jan. 6.

Contact Us