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Knott testifies; prosecutor calls her actions 'hate crime'

Kathryn Knott is charged with aggravated assault and related offenses in an attack last year on a gay couple in Center City.

KATHRYN KNOTT, the 25-year-old woman accused of screaming slurs at a gay couple and punching one of the men during an assault in Center City last year, took the stand in her own defense yesterday morning.

She told a Philadelphia Common Pleas jury she did not hit anyone or say anything demeaning.

"No, I did not," Knott, dressed in a light-blue sweater, glasses and dark slacks, calmly replied when asked by her attorney, Louis Busico, if she had hit anyone or called anyone a slur.

Later in the afternoon, in an emotional closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Michael Barry jumped out of his seat, loudly telling jurors: "This was a hate crime . . . She does not like gay people."

Barry said four people - who did not know Knott beforehand - identified Knott by face or by what she wore as participating in the attack. And he said that Knott's prior Twitter posts showed her anti-gay sentiments.

Knott, of Southampton, Bucks County, is on trial on charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy and related offenses.

About 10:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 2014, Knott was in a group of 15 friends walking north on 16th Street when her group encountered a gay couple - Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught - who were walking on Chancellor Street just south of Walnut.

Hesse, 29, and Haught, 28, testified last week that another person in Knott's group - Kevin Harrigan - called them an anti-gay slur. They said Harrigan started a fight with Hesse.

Knott testified she didn't see what happened with Harrigan. She said there was "a big scuffle" between men in her group and Haught and Hesse.

She said she then heard a loud argument between her friend, Taylor Peltzer, and Haught. She said that Haught wasn't wearing his glasses, and that Peltzer had her hands outstretched, with one palm facing Haught.

"I saw Mr. Haught move Ms. Peltzer's hand away," Knott said.

Peltzer testified Monday that Haught punched her in her right cheekbone. Knott said she did not see a punch. Haught previously testified that he didn't hit anyone.

Knott said that after Haught pushed her friend's hand away, another man in her group, Philip Williams, "came in and pushed Mr. Haught further down the alley of Chancellor Street."

She said Williams "put his arm up, so I ran" toward him. She said Williams punched Haught once, and she ran back to 16th.

Haught was punched multiple times and fell to the ground, bleeding and unconscious. He was hospitalized for five days and his jaw was wired shut for about eight weeks to repair a fractured jawbone. Hesse suffered black eyes, he testified last week.

After Haught was hit, Knott and her group headed to a bar. No one in her group contacted police.

Barry told jurors that the two victims identified Knott as one of the people who was screaming "f----t" at them and who punched Hesse. He said two independent witnesses - two young women who were at a bus stop, but then ran to observe the fight - also picked Knott out in a photo array or by the white dress she wore that night as being a person who threw a punch.

Busico, Knott's attorney, told jurors there were inconsistencies in the prosecution witnesses' statements or testimonies.

"Do you believe, as she [Knott] was standing on the corner of 16th and Chancellor, that she really wanted to insert herself between three or four men?" Busico asked, noting that Knott was in a dress and sandals that night.

Busico pointed to two video snippets - taken by another person in Knott's group - that showed that Knott "did nothing."

The videos didn't show any fighting.

Before closing arguments, Busico presented seven character witnesses - friends and former teachers - who testified that Knott has a reputation for being a peaceful, law-abiding citizen.

On Monday, four people who were in Knott's group that night testified that Knott didn't punch anyone or yell any slurs.

Barry, in his closing argument, dismissed the credibility of the defense witnesses.

As for Knott's tweets, prosecutors showed jurors four that were allegedly anti-gay, including this one from March 2012: "@krisssstenxoxo the ppl we were just dancing with just turned and mafe out with eatch other #gay #ew".

Knott testified she tweeted that when she was in a bar while in college and saw two men "aggressively making out."

"I'm not a PDA person, so I found that strange to me," she testified, using an abbreviation for public displays of affection.

Under cross-examination, Barry asked why she wrote "#gay #ew" in her tweet.

Knott testified: "I think it was taken out of context. It wasn't meant to be derogatory."

In his closing, Barry said of the tweet: "Two gay people kissed and it bothered her so much, she took out her phone, stopped what she was doing, and told the whole world." He contended that Knott was disgusted by gay people, causing her to get involved in the assault last year after Harrigan got into a fight with Hesse.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations today after Judge Roxanne Covington instructs them on the law.

Williams, 25, and Harrigan, 27, have pleaded guilty in the case.