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March 13, 2016

Judge denies request to reconsider jail sentence for Kathryn Knott in assault conviction

Judge Roxanne Covington on Monday denied a request to reconsider the sentence of Kathryn Knott, the Bucks County woman convicted of simple assault and related charges in the 2014 beating of a homosexual couple in Center City.

"The sentence is well within the guidelines and is as appropriate as I can provide within the law and shall remain," Covington told Knott and her attorney, Bill Brennan, in court. "The motion is denied."

Afterward, Brennan said he was disappointed by the judge's decision, but thanked her for hearing the request.

"We're disappointed that some of the options we presented were not granted," he said. "I thank and applaud Judge Covington for allowing our process to take place in an open court. I can deal with a denial. I can't deal with a non-response or a stonewall."

Knott has 30 days to file an appeal, which Brennan said is "certainly something that's on the table."

Brennan had filed the motion in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas 10 days after Knott's Feb. 8 sentencing. She is being held at Riverside Correctional Facility in Holmesburg.

Knott, 25, of Upper Southampton, was sentenced to 5-to-10 months in prison and two years of probation for her role in the beating, which left Andrew Haught unconscious, with a broken jaw that needed to be wired shut.

She also received a $2,000 fine and was ordered to attend anger management classes, keep out of Philadelphia County during her probation and stay away from Haught and his partner, Zachary Hesse, who sustained minor facial bruises in the attack.

Brennan requested Covington consider alternatives to incarceration, contending that Knott's sentencing should be more rehabilitative and a better attempt to heal the wounds caused by the assault. He suggested Covington incorporate a public service announcement or community service into a new sentence.  

In denying the motion, Covington said Knott displayed a "complete disconnection" from the assault and a "failure" to take ownership of her actions despite issuing an apology at her sentencing hearing.

"As injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, hatred toward any group is no different than hatred toward all of us," Covington said. "Every single one of us has a right to be who we are, to love who we want and to walk down the street and enjoy the city safely, without fear of ridicule, of torture, of attack."

Assistant District Attorney Allison Ruth said the judge's remarks were no surprise.

"I thought they were very articulate and exactly on point," Ruth said after the hearing. "We're happy that she did the right thing and kept the sentence the same."

Knott was one of three defendants charged in the beating, but her co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, accepted plea deals that included probation and 200 hours of community service at an LGBT Center.

Knott opted for a trial and ended up with the harshest sentence.

Brennan argued for parity among the sentences, which Covington said was not an applicable defense because defendants are notified that post-trial sentences can be harsher than the penalties included in plea agreements. 

Brennan also noted that Knott is "doing well" in prison, saying she has a job cleaning bathrooms and showers. Knott is taking anger management sessions and is doing everything asked by prison officials, Brennan said.

He suggested Knott instead be placed on house arrest, saying she has a job lined up at Thackray Crane Rental and a potential residence in the Fox Chase section of Northeast Philadelphia. He stressed Knott could help heal the damage the assault inflicted on the LGBT community. 

"Why not do something that may go on indefinitely?" Brennan asked Covington. "A public service announcement, some community service – something that reaches out to the community. ... It seems to just let her do another month or two or three and go back into society with no attempt to address those larger issues would be an opportunity wasted."

Ruth urged against a resentencing, arguing the sentence was not excessive and that a PSA involving Knott would be "comical ... if it wasn't so offensive."

"She didn't say, 'I'm sorry for my actions,'" Ruth told Covington. "She said, 'I'm sorry it happened to you.' That's not an apology. And this is the woman who should do a PSA? The best PSA to deter a future hate crime would be for this defendant to serve the sentence Your Honor properly imposed."

Brennan responded that a PSA would give Knott an opportunity to show she has changed, drawing comparisons to former  Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who admitted to errors in his segregationist past. 

"Who else is going to do a PSA on this?" Brennan said. "Mother Teresa? We don't need a PSA from Mother Teresa. We know what she's about."

But Ruth questioned why Knott should be given special treatment.

"Why should it happen with this defendant?" Ruth said. "It's ridiculous and it's offensive. Hate is hate. Enough is enough and the defendant's sentence should remain."

In December, Knott was found guilty of simple assault against Hesse, conspiracy and two counts of reckless endangerment. She was exonerated of aggravated assault charges against both victims, simple assault against Haught and three counts of conspiracy.