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April 30, 2016

Report: Knott, father, Bucks D.A. sued for alleged retaliation over Internet comments

PhillyMag: Montco woman says she was threatened with arrest, fired for posts she thought were anonymous

Kathryn Knott, the Upper Southampton woman who was sentenced to 5-10 months in prison earlier this year for her role in the 2014 beating of a homosexual couple in Center City Philadelphia, isn't out of the legal woods yet, according to a report.

According to PhillyMag, a Norristown woman who posted negative comments on Internet articles about Knott filed a federal lawsuit Friday that alleges "retaliation" for the posts and termination by her employer.

Kathleen O’Donnell's complaint says she created a Disqus account called "Knotty is a Tramp," which used an unflattering photo of Knott. Disqus is an online commenting platform used by PhillyVoice and many other digital sites.

The magazine reports O'Donnell thought her comments were anonymous, and some of them were about Knott's father, Karl Knott, who is captain of patrol for the Central Bucks Regional Police Department and former police chief in Chalfont Borough, Bucks County.

But about a year after she created the account, she was visited by Bucks County detectives who said she would be arrested if she didn't stop commenting and accused her of impersonating Knott, the lawsuit claims.

The detectives told her employer about the comments, the lawsuit says, and she met with them and her boss where she admitted to posting them.

O'Donnell says she was fired the next day. Per PhillyMag:

The lawsuit accuses the two detectives, Bucks County, and Bucks’ District Attorney David Heckler of violating her First Amendment right to free speech, among other alleged Constitutional violations and goes on to claim that those defendants as well as Knott and her father were part of a conspiracy. According to the complaint, the group “acted with a common purpose to silence O’Donnell’s lawfully and constitutionally protected speech.”

The lawsuit seeks at least $150,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million or more in punitive damages, according to the magazine.

Kathryn Knott, 25, was convicted of simple assault and reckless endangerment in December for the incident that left Zachary Hesse and his partner Andrew Haught badly beaten.

After her sentencing, she tried and failed to have a judge reconsider her jail time.