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Blogger sues Kathryn Knott, her father, and Bucks D.A.

A blogger who wrote about Kathryn Knott - the Bucks County woman convicted of participating in a 2014 attack on a gay couple in Center City - has sued Knott, Knott's father, the Bucks County district attorney, and others.

A blogger who wrote about Kathryn Knott - the Bucks County woman convicted of participating in a 2014 attack on a gay couple in Center City - has sued Knott, Knott's father, the Bucks County district attorney, and others.

Kathleen O'Donnell, 61, of Norristown, says in her lawsuit filed Friday in federal court, that her free-speech rights were violated and that she was fired from her job the day Bucks detectives went to her workplace asking about her online writings.

Knott, 25, of Southampton, is serving a five-to-10-month jail sentence at the Riverside Correctional Facility in Holmesburg after she was convicted in December of simple assault and related charges for her role in the Sept. 11, 2014, attack at 16th and Chancellor Streets.

Two others, Kevin Harrigan, 27, and Philip Williams, 25, both of Bucks County, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation.

O'Donnell's blog - "Knotty is a Tramp," what she called a "parody account," was created on Sept. 26, 2014.

The suit says she was "expressing her opinions and outrage" about the attack on the two gay men when there was intense media scrutiny of Knott, who before the attack had expressed antigay sentiments on social media.

O'Donnell alleges that Knott learned of the blog and that her father, Karl Knott, directed her to complain to the Bucks District Attorney's Office.

Karl Knott was then chief of Chalfont Borough police in Bucks County and now is captain at the Central Bucks Regional Police Department.

O'Donnell says that in August 2015, two Bucks County district attorney detectives went to her office at Walker Parking Consultants in Wayne.

The detectives, Martin McDonough and Mark Zielinski, first met privately with O'Donnell's boss, James Pudleiner, and told him that O'Donnell had posted "harassing comments" about Kathryn Knott, sometimes from a computer at her work, the lawsuit says.

It says that O'Donnell was brought before the detectives and that she acknowledged operating the "Knotty is a Tramp" account, commenting on news items about Knott.

The lawsuit contends the detectives "threatened" O'Donnell, saying that if she continued writing under the username "Knotty is a Tramp" that "she would be arrested for 'fraudulently impersonating Ms. Knott.' "

O'Donnell told the detectives she would not post on the account again.

The lawsuit says that O'Donnell was fired from her job that day "as a direct result of the visit" by the detectives.

Her lawsuit, which also names Bucks County as a defendant, seeks more than $150,000 in compensatory damages and more than $5 million in punitive damages. It contends she suffered monetary losses, including her salary, as well as emotional pain and damage to her reputation.

Efforts to reach Karl Knott on Saturday were not successful.

The suit also names as defendants Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler and the two detectives, contending Heckler directed the detectives to confront O'Donnell at work "in retaliation" for her writings about Kathryn Knott.

Heckler, reached Saturday, said he hadn't yet seen the lawsuit. He said he doesn't direct his office's detectives to investigate a matter unless it's something more serious, like a homicide. He said his detectives were concerned about the blog because it "was perceived as potentially threatening and potentially inciting others" to do something threatening.

"We would not have been looking into the matter unless it involved what we believed to be potentially incriminating behavior," he said.

In the end, he said, his office didn't file any charges against O'Donnell because she had agreed to stop writing the blog.

Heckler also said the fact that Karl Knott was a police chief in Bucks had nothing to do with the detectives' investigation. The district attorney said he "barely" knows Karl Knott and wasn't contacted by him.

"We certainly didn't bully up on her [O'Donnell] because Chief Knott is a police officer and we were looking out for a buddy," Heckler said.

The suit was filed by attorneys Sean Ruppert and Martell Harris of Kraemer, Manes & Associates in Pittsburgh. Asked to see examples of O'Donnell's blog writings, Ruppert said Saturday that he couldn't release them at this point in the litigation.

shawj@phillynews.com215-854-2592 @julieshawphilly