At a pre-trial hearing in Philadelphia on Thursday, attorneys representing the trio accused of attacking a gay couple in Philadelphia’s City Center on September 11, 2014, continued to maintain that their clients were innocent, reports the New Civil Rights Movement.
Kevin Harrigan, Kathryn Knott, and Philip Williams appeared in court at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center Thursday, according to the Bucks County Courier. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.
“All three defendants steadfastly maintain their innocence,” said Louis Busico, Knott’s attorney. Defense attorneys also indicated they plan to ask for charges against their clients to be dropped or decreased, reports Philadelphia news station KYW-TV.
Thursday's hearing was to check on the status of the case and allow prosecutors and defense to continue with the discovery phase of the investigation, Philadelphia Gay News reports. The suspects are due in court for another "pre-trial bring back" on April 16, according to PGN.
All three suspects face charges of felony aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, and criminal conspiracy for the September 11 attack that left Zachary Hesse and his boyfriend, Andrew Haught, hospitalized with a broken jaw and cheekbones, resulting in his jaw being wired shut.
Initial reports of the brutal attack suggested that as many as 15 people confronted the couple on the street in Philadelphia’s City Center neighborhood the night of September 11. In a December arraignment, 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.” The confrontation then escalated, and witnesses called 911.
Police identified Knott, Harrigan, and Williams as the primary assailants and arrested and charged the trio last September. 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.
Pennsylvania does not have hate crime laws inclusive of sexual orientation, though Philadelphia’s City Council unanimously passed an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes law in the response to the attack in November. Despite the lack of formal hate crime charges, out Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims said the attack was definitely a hate crime.