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December 17, 2015

Kathryn Knott jury to return Friday for third day of deliberations

Buck County woman is charged in beating of a gay couple in Center City

Courts Trials
12142015_kathryn_knott2 Source/Twitter

Kathryn Knott

The jury in the assault trial of Kathryn Knott on Friday will deliberate a third day as it works to reach a verdict.

Judge Roxanne Covington honored the jury's request for dismissal around 4:20 p.m. Thursday, the second full day of deliberations following four days of testimony.

Knott, 25, of Upper Southampton, is the last of three defendants to face charges in the Center City beatings of Andrew Haught and his partner, Zachary Hesse. She faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy and reckless endangerment. 

Prosecutors allege Knott hit Hesse and spewed homophobic slurs when a group of 15 of her friends encountered the couple at 16th and Chancellor streets on Sept. 11, 2014. Hesse sustained minor bruises to his face and Haught was knocked unconscious – with broken cheekbones and a fractured upper jaw that needed to be wired shut for eight weeks.

Not long after beginning its second day of deliberations, the Court of Common Pleas jury – comprising eight women and four men – let the judge know they had more questions.

The jury requested police statements given by Knott and Elizabeth Foley, a defense witness who was among Knott's group on the night of the incident.

But Knott never gave a statement to police. Her attorney, Louis Busico, requested the jury not be told that information to "avoid the obvious inference of guilt."

Covington agreed, saying the jury would be provided with an innocuous reason for not being provided with a statement from Knott, unless the jury pressed.

Then after a lunch break, Covington re-read the definitions of the conspiracy and reckless endangerment charges to the jury, at their request.

The jury spent a full day deliberating Wednesday after receiving instructions from Covington. Despite reviewing videos shown throughout the trial and requesting police statements of the alleged victims and four witnesses, it did not reach a verdict.

The other defendants – Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams – pleaded guilty earlier this year to assault and conspiracy charges. They were sentenced to probation and 200 hours of community service at an LGBT center.

Knott took the stand Wednesday, testifying that she never struck anyone or used homophobic slurs. She said she was near the middle of the group of friends when the incident broke out behind her. She said she saw a member of her group on the ground but remained on the periphery.

After Williams hit Haught, Knott said she turned and ran the other way. Four other defense witnesses – all part of her group – testified they did not see Knott strike anyone.

The group, which was coming from a dinner party at La Viola, was headed to Tir Na Nog, an Irish restaurant and bar at 16th and Arch streets.

Knott also testified about four tweets posted to her Twitter account prior to the Sept. 11, 2014, incident that the prosecution has argued demonstrate the defendant's history of using homophobic language. One stated: "@krissstenxoxo the ppl we were just dancing with just turned and mafe out with eatch other #gay #ew."

Knott explained to the jury she was offended by the public display of affection, not the sexuality of the couple. She said she included the hashtag "gay" in the tweet to describe the situation. 

The defendant's testimony about the alleged assault differed from that of Haught and Hesse, who said the incident began when Harrigan directed a homophobic slur toward the couple as they walked to get pizza.

Hesse testified that words and pushes were exchanged before several people began throwing punches at him, including Knott. Two independent witnesses also testified that they saw Knott strike Hesse. Haught said he saw Knott swinging at Hesse before he lost his glasses and was beaten by Williams.