Philadelphia

Woman Guilty of Assault in Center City Gay Bashing, But Not Guilty of Most Serious Charges

The daughter of a suburban Philadelphia police chief found guilty of simple assault in a violent attack on a gay couple in Center City Philadelphia may be spared jail time after a jury acquitted her of the most serious counts she faced.

The jury deliberated for three days before finding Kathryn Knott, 25, guilty of four counts including simple assault, reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit simple assault. Knott was acquitted of three other counts, including aggravated assault, a felony.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams hailed the conviction a victory.

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"Kathryn Knott’s actions on that night in September of 2014 were disgusting and what she did hurt all of us, especially the LGBTQ community" said Williams.

Knott's attorney Louis Buscio also claimed a victory of sorts since Knott was vindicated on the felony counts that would have carried likely prison time.

The conviction on lesser charges appeared to be hard fought. Jurors could be heard yelling in the moments before they announced they had reached a verdict. The jury's leader said she was angry with the result.

"The fact that (Knott) came into my city and did this to people she knew nothing about is wrong," said jury forewoman Joan Bellinger. "...She essentially went in and affirmed what they were doing and she said, 'yeah this is fine, this is fine, we can call you anything we want, we can do anything to you because you're sub-class' and it is wrong."

"She left (one victim) laying there in a pool of blood, and just went off and went about her merry way," said Bellinger, a retired human resources professional.

Knott, of Southampton, Bucks County, was one of 15 friends, some from the same Catholic high school, who were out celebrating a birthday the night of the attack. The victims were walking to the city's popular "Gayborhood" to get pizza.

Witnesses described Knott as a blond woman in a white dress who threw a punch during the assault at 16th and Chancellor streets, which was partially captured on surveillance video.

Knott denied punching anyone and told jurors she moved toward the victims to intervene.

She sobbed in court after the verdict was read as she huddled with her mother and father, the police chief of Chalfont, Bucks County. She didn't respond to reporters' questions as she left the courthouse.

Through legal representation, the victims of the attack said they were satisfied with the verdict and that they had hoped the case had never gone to trial.

Knott went on trial after two male co-defendants pleaded guilty in the case in October and got probation. Sentencing guidelines call for probation on Knott's three misdemeanors, but she could get up to two years in jail.

Co-defendant Philip Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aggravated assault and was sentenced to five years of probation, while Kevin Harrigan pleaded to conspiracy and simple assault and received three years of probation. Both are banned from downtown while they're on probation.

Williams and Harrigan denied the dispute stemmed from homophobia, although witnesses said it began when someone in the group asked, in a profanity-laced slur, if the men were gay.

Prosecutors argued Knott's earlier tweets showed her bias against gays, along with a previous incident when she was thrown out of a bar. She also allegedly tweeted photos of patient X-rays, purportedly from the hospital where she worked. She lost her job after her arrest and the social media disclosures.

City officials, motivated by the crime, moved weeks later to amend Philadelphia's hate-crime law.

"Hate has no place in this great city of ours; not in Center City, not in the Gayborhood and not on one of our neighborhood street corners -- from north to south and from east to west," said Williams.

Knott remains free on bail until her sentencing in February.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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