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March 11, 2016

LGBT advocate: Kathryn Knott sentence neither 'cruel nor overextension'

Judge Roxanne Covington will hear a motion to grant Knott a resentencing hearing

Courts Kathryn Knott
12102015_KathrynKnott Philadelphia Police Department/for PhillyVoice

Kathryn Knott

With a Court of Common Pleas judge set to consider on Monday a motion to grant Kathryn Knott a resentencing hearing, one member of the city's LGBT community is urging that her jail sentence is left unchanged.

Christopher Sawyer, who has no direct connection to the case, has asked Judge Roxanne Covington to deny a new hearing to Knott, who was sentenced in February to 5-to-10 months in prison for her role in the beatings of a homosexual couple.

Sawyer, an openly homosexual man who ran for sheriff last year, filed an amicus brief last month saying Knott's sentence was neither "cruel nor an overextension." Her sentence sent a message that Philadelphia will not tolerate violence committed on the basis of one's sexual orientation, he wrote.

"By removing Knott's incarceration term from this sentence, this court would also reverse its own attitude towards simple and aggravated assault in the public sphere," Sawyer wrote. "It would communicate clearly to all LGBT people, not just myself, that there is no justice to be found in Pennsylvania if you are assaulted and attacked merely because of the gender of who you love or the gender with which you identify."

Sawyer, who runs the blog Philadelinquency, wrote that many individuals in the LGBT community move to large cities because they are more accepting of their sexual orientation. Sawyer moved to Philadelphia from South Texas, though he said his sexual orientation did not play a factor in the move.

"Philadelphia is considered to be a safe haven for LGBT people," Sawyer wrote. "Throughout the 20th century and even today, Philadelphia is a refuge for many LGBT Pennsylvanians who cannot or refuse to adapt into adulthood in (the) more rural or suburban environment from whence they came and live a double lifestyle."

Covington can decide whether to factor Sawyer's brief into her decision. Sawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

In December, Knott was convicted of simple assault, conspiracy and two counts of reckless endangerment for her role in the beatings of Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught, who was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw. Hesse sustained minor facial bruises.

Knott, 25, of Upper Southampton, was one of three defendants charged in the assault, which occurred after the couple encountered Knott and 14 others Sept. 11, 2014 at 16th and Chancellor streets. Her co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, received lighter penalties when they accepted plea agreements in October.

Knott, who elected to take her chances in court, was the only member of the trio to receive any jail time. She also was sentenced to two years of probation and a $2,000 fine. Additionally, Covington ordered her to attend anger management classes, keep out of Philadelphia County during her probation and stay away from the victims.

Knott's defense attorney, Bill Brennan, filed a motion for a resentencing hearing last month, asking Covington to consider alternatives to incarceration. He contended Knott's sentence should be more rehabilitative and better attempt to heal the wounds caused by the assault. He suggested community service or a public service announcement might be "more proactive and productive."

Harrigan and Williams each received sentences that included probation, 200 hours of community service at an LGBT Center and a ban on entering Center City during their probationary period.

Knott is being held at Riverside Correctional Facility in Holmesburg.