A Philadelphia judge Tuesday ordered two men and a woman to stand trial on charges that they assaulted a gay couple in Center City in a case that stirred national attention.

Philip Williams, 24, of Warminster; Kevin Harrigan, 26, of Warrington; and Kathryn Knott, 24, of Southampton, will face charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy, and related offenses after a preliminary hearing before Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden.

According to testimony by Zachary Hesse, 28, one of the victims, the confrontation began around 10:45 p.m. Sept. 11. He and his partner had left a frozen-yogurt shop and were walking to get pizza.

At 16th and Chancellor Streets, they crossed paths with a group of about 10 people, and to his surprise, one leveled a slur.

"Is that your - boyfriend," he testified Harrigan asked him.

"Yeah, that's my - boyfriend," Hesse said he answered.

After another exchange of words, the men started shoving each other, he testified, and the larger group closed in on the couple, leaving the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hesse "terrified."

Hesse told the court that Knott then waved a finger in his face, clawed at him, and called him an offensive name.

After that, Hesse said, "it got kind of messy."

"I was surrounded by people," Hesse said. "I was getting hit." The victim told the court his reaction was to push back. "I was just trying to break them free."

Hesse testified that he saw Williams strike his boyfriend, whose jaw had to be wired shut for eight weeks.

At one point during the confrontation, Hesse told the court, he saw his boyfriend being struck several times before falling to the ground and hitting his head.

"He was in a pool of blood," Hesse said. "He had a laceration on his face. It was open and gushing." The group, he said, quickly fled as sirens neared.

None of the defendants testified during the hearing.

Each was represented by an attorney who challenged the state's conspiracy case. They said their clients had gone out to dinner to celebrate Harrigan's birthday.

"It doesn't make sense that you would be looking for trouble on a night like that," said Joshua Scarpello, Harrigan's attorney. "This is a sequence of events with two separate fights."

And, he said, Harrigan did not throw the punches that broke the jaw of Hesse's boyfriend.

Attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr. told the judge that the group that night was not a "wolf pack" seeking victims. Perri, who represents Williams, said his client did not get involved until after a woman was pushed or shoved.

Louis R. Busico said his client, Knott, wasn't looking for a fight.

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

The prosecutor, Mike Barry, said the two were assaulted while minding their own business. "They got attacked just for being who they were," he said.

The judge heard two hours of testimony in the crowded courtroom before finding the prosecution had made its case that there was enough evidence to proceed to trial.

In addition to conspiracy, each defendant faces two felony assault charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail. They are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 6 for their arraignments.

The three defendants, who are free on bail, are the only members of the larger party to be charged.

dpurcell@phillynews.com

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@dylancpurcell