DEFENSE ATTORNEYS for three Bucks County young adults accused of assaulting two gay men in Center City in September argued in court yesterday that their clients either threw a punch, pointed fingers or exchanged heated words.

All claimed that their clients had no part in leaving one of the victims with a broken jaw, two broken cheek bones and barely conscious following the Sept. 11 clash at 16th and Chancellor streets.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Barry vigorously argued that the defendants - Kathryn Knott, 24; Philip Williams, 24; and Kevin Harrigan, 26 - pelted the couple with anti-gay slurs before participating in the beating, which made international headlines.

Following a two-hour preliminary hearing, Philadelphia Municipal Judge Charles Hayden held the defendants for trial on two felony counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and related charges.

"They got attacked for just being who they are," Barry said following the hearing, referring to Zachary Hesse, 28, and Andrew Haught, 27.

Hesse testified that he and Haught - a couple for seven years - had just gotten yogurt and were walking to get pizza near Rittenhouse Square when they saw the three defendants in a group of about a dozen young men and women.

After Harrigan asked, "'Is that your f----ing boyfriend?'" Hesse said he responded,

"'Yeah, that's my f--king boyfriend. Do you have a problem with that?'"

Harrigan, he said, responded: "'Oh, so you're a dirty f--king faggot.'"

Pushing ensued, Harrigan landed a head punch, Knott started pointing and clawing at his face and Williams threw a "sucker punch" so hard that it staggered him, Hesse testified.

Hesse said he saw Haught get punched about four times and get grabbed in a head lock before he fell to the ground, where he laid for several minutes motionless and bleeding from his mouth and from a facial wound.

Haught, who did not testify, spent five days in the hospital and had his broken jaw wired shut for just over seven weeks, Hesse testified.

Hesse said he suffered two black eyes and facial cuts.

Williams' attorney, Fortunato Perri, said his client only got involved in the fight to defend Knott after she got struck.

Attorney Louis Busico said his client, Knott, could not have contributed to the couple's injuries because she merely pointed her finger at them.

"She's a young girl dressed in a white dress, made up coming from dinner. If she's looking for a fight then I guess Miss America is a UFC fighter," Busico said.

Attorney Joshua Scarpello said his client, Harrigan, at best should only be tried for simple assault and reckless endangerment - both misdemeanors - because he hit Hesse with one punch and never touched the more seriously injured Haught.

The fight resulted from the gay couple and the larger group bumping into each other, Scarpello said.

"That's different than what this case has been portrayed as, which is: Two guys minding their own business, suddenly converged upon, they find themselves in a fight for their lives."

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