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Judge rules on alleged gay-basher's tweets

Alleged anti-gay tweets by Kathryn Knott can be admitted at her trial, but posts about other minorities and her drinking cannot.

REMEMBER THOSE alleged anti-gay tweets posted by Kathryn Knott, one of the three Bucks County defendants charged in last year's assault on a gay couple in Center City?

Well, they can be introduced at Knott's assault trial next month, a judge ruled Tuesday.

A Common Pleas jury is expected to hear that Knott, 25, of Southampton, had posted the following on her @kathryn_knott Twitter account:

* "@krisssstenxoxo the ppl we were just dancing with just turned and mafe out with eatch other #gay #ew"

* "jazz flute is for little fairy boys"

* "@g0_nads he's gonna rip me today for my hair..just wait. #dyke"

* "this camo song is gay like all the other brad paisley songs"

Knott faces trial on a count of conspiracy, two counts of aggravated assault and related offenses in the September 2014 attack on a gay couple in Center City. Jury selection is expected to take place Dec. 9. Opening statements would likely begin the next day.

Michael Barry, chief of the District Attorney's Central Division, told Judge Roxanne Covington during a pretrial motions hearing that Knott had posted "a number of tweets which clearly indicate a general dislike to a disgust of gays and lesbians and people of other backgrounds."

He said he was seeking to admit her tweets as evidence in her trial because "they are overwhelmingly relevant" and show a motive for her behavior on Sept. 11, 2014.

About 10:45 p.m. that day, Knott was among a group of about 15 people who encountered a gay couple, Andrew Haught, 27, and Zachary Hesse, 28, walking at 16th and Chancellor streets, near Rittenhouse Square.

Knott and others in her group were accused of hurling anti-gay slurs at the couple and assaulting the two men during a fight.

Haught got punched about four times, and was grabbed in a head lock before he fell to the ground for several minutes, motionless and bleeding from his mouth. He spent five days in the hospital and his broken jaw was wired shut for several weeks.

Hesse was also punched and suffered two black eyes and facial cuts. The case made international headlines and blew up a storm on social-media websites.

Besides Knott, two others in her group, Philip Williams, of Warminster, and Kevin Harrigan, of Warrington, were also charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and related offenses.

Last month, Williams, 25, and Harrigan, 27, accepted commonwealth offers to plead guilty before Common Pleas Judge Frank Palumbo. Williams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and conspiracy and was sentenced to five years' probation.

Harrigan pleaded to simple assault and conspiracy and was sentenced to three years' probation. Both were ordered to perform community service at a center supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, to stay away from Center City while on probation and to pay restitution.

Knott turned down a plea offer and opted to take her case to trial.

Barry, in arguing Tuesday for Knott's tweets to be introduced at her trial, told the judge: "She does not like gay people. This is why the fight happened. . . . She's one of the people who jumped in and joined the assault."

The prosecutor said an independent witness saw Knott run into the fight and punch Hesse.

He said the victims also heard her call out the word "faggot."

Knott's attorney, Louis Busico, contended after the hearing that Knott didn't touch any of the victims. He has also said she is not homophobic.

Barry also sought to introduce at trial some of Knott's past tweets that could be considered racist and others that allegedly showed evidence of excessive drinking and unruly behavior.

In one post, Knott tweeted: "My cab driver starting shouting some jihad s--- so I starting singing America the beautiful #merrica." In another, she posted: "We just got banned from the bar in hilton head."

Barry said that on the night of the September 2014 assault, Knott and her group had gone to La Viola, a Center City BYOB restaurant, where they were drinking, before they encountered the gay couple. He said that after the attack, Knott had gone to Tir Na Nog, a Center City Irish pub.

Judge Covington, however, ruled that the tweets that showed an alleged bias against other minorities or that showed Knott's alleged drinking habits have low relevance to her alleged crimes and could be unfairly prejudicial to her at trial.

Busico argued against having any of the tweets introduced at Knott's trial. He argued that they were not evidence of prior bad acts, had been written four or five years ago and were not relevant to what happened in Center City.

"This is just character assassination," he said.

During the hearing, Knott, who is not in custody, sat tall at the defense table, dressed in a black shirt and black pants.

Her father, Karl Knott, who is the police chief in Chalfont Borough, Bucks County, cast his eyes downward as he sat in the courtroom gallery with his wife.

Kathryn Knott declined to comment after the hearing. She had been fired from her job as an emergency-room technician at Lansdale Hospital two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2014, incident.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly