The three suspects in the attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia in September will go to trial early next year.
At a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Judge Charles Hayden said there was sufficient evidence to prosecute defendants Kathryn Knott, Kevin Harrigan, and Philip Williams on felony assault and conspiracy charges, among others, reports Philadelphia Magazine. They will be arraigned, that is, officially called before the court, January 6,
Prosecutors called victim Zachary Hesse and witness Geoff Nagle to testify at the hearing regarding the attack in Philadelphia's heavily gay Center City neighborhood. Hesse and his boyfriend, Andrew Haught, were confronted on the street by a crowd of people the night of September 11. Hesse testified that after a short exchange of words, Harrigan asked if he was "a dirty faggot," which led to Hesse being shoved and shoving back, reports TV station WCAU.
"I approached him and said, 'Maybe I am a dirty fucking faggot," Hesse said. "He pushed me, I pushed him."
Hesse said the situation "got messy," according to the Associated Press. Then witness Nagle saw the fight from a third-story window and called 911. Nagle testified that he saw a woman pointing a finger at one of the victims of the attack and heard punches land. Haught suffered a broken jaw and cheekbones in the attack and had to have his jaw wired shut.
Defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. argued that the conspiracy charges should be dropped and the other charges reduced.
"We don't have a conspiracy, a wolf pack, a group of young people seeking to beat people up on the street of Philadelphia," Perri argued in court, the AP reports. Judge Hayden, however, ruled that the suspects will face the charges as they stand.
Knott, Harrigan, and Williams became the center of a media storm in September after a Twitter user identified the attackers using surveillance footage released by authorities and a tagged picture. Police launched an investigation into the attack and tracked down three suspects from the group.
Shortly after the three were arrested and released, Knott was identified as the daughter of a Bucks County police chief. Social media exploded with images of homophobic and racist slurs on her Twitter feed. Her feed also exposed misconduct in her job at Abington Health, and she was subsequently terminated.
Response by politicians and residents to the attack was swift and strong, demanding that Pennsylvania hate-crimes law be expanded to cover crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. Because the state law lacks this provision, the attack is not being investigated as a hate crime despite the use of slurs to start the altercation.
"They got attacked because of who they are," Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry told Judge Hayden of the victims, according to the AP.