Gay-bashing suspects out on bail

Gay-bashing suspects out on bail

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The three defendants accused of attacking a gay couple in Center City earlier this month were released on bail early Thursday morning. 

Philip Williams and Kathryn Knott, 24, and Kevin Harrigan, 26, turned themselves in to police Wednesday morning. All three, who are from Bucks County, were arraigned overnight and  released after posting 10 percent of their bail; bail was set at $50,000 for Knott and Williams and $75,000 for Harrigan. The cases have been merged, and the bail terms were set by Common Pleas Judge Roger Gordon.

All three are scheduled for a status hearing at 9 a.m. Sept. 30 in Room 406 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1301 Filbert St.

Bail was presumably posted by the parents of the defendants: Thomas Richard Williams, Carol Knott and James Harrigan.

The arrests were the culmination of a nearly two-week investigation into the Sept. 11 attack of a gay couple at 16th and Chancellor streets. The incident involved up to 15 people, who reportedly use antigay slurs and language during the violent beating.

The three suspects were each charged with two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person and one count of criminal conspiracy. They cannot be charged with a hate crime, as Pennsylvania’s statute does not include LGBT protections.

None of the three suspects has a prior arrest record. Knott, a 2013 graduate of La Salle University, is the daughter of Chalfont police chief Karl Knott. A now-defunct Twitter account of Knott's drew intense scrutiny Wednesday for several homophobic and racist Tweets. After the arrest, she was suspended from her position as an emergency-room technician at Lansdale Hospital, and a spokesperson said the hospital is investigating possible HIPAA violations stemming from Knott's posting of patient information on Twitter. 

A police source told PGN Wednesday that all three allegedly attacked the victims, and Knott’s voice appears to be among those on a recording hurling antigay epithets.

The potential penalties facing the suspects are hefty.

Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Simple assault is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum of five years in prison, while recklessly endangering another person is a second-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to two years in prison. Conspiracy charges are based on a suspect “agree[ing] with [an]other person that they will engage in [criminal] conduct” or aiding another in criminal conduct.

Caryn Kunkle, a friend of the victims, who are remaining anonymous, said they were encouraged by the arrests but hoping for further action.

“They’re happy arrests were made. They’re just really overwhelmed and exhausted right now. This has been a taxing process on them,” she said. “They’re looking forward to other arrests but it seems like there’s solid evidence to prosecute these three right now.”

No one else present at the incident will be charged at this time, DA spokesperson Tasha Jamerson told PGN Tuesday.

“This is it,” she said.

While supporters have called for arrests of all members of the group, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, the police department’s LGBT liaison, noted that the investigation did not point to all having been involved in the assault.

“I can understand why people are calling for that, but the reality is the way the system is set up. We did a very thorough investigation and worked with the DA to identify the individuals we thought are culpable. That’s where it lies,” Bethel said. “Twelve people walking down a street in and of itself doesn’t define the crime. It’s about who took physical action, who assaulted. It would be over-reaching and over-charging if all 12 were arrested just because they were there.”

However, Bethel did not rule out the possibility of further charges being filed.

“We do our investigation and the facts, the facts, take us to the crime and the persons responsible,” he said. “In this case, those detectives worked very hard — there was a lot of work to do, a lot of interviews — and then worked with the DA to make sure the right people were appropriately charged. As this goes forward, if new facts come to light that would indicate other people could also be responsible, we’ll be prepared to investigate them and work with the D.A. to bring charges if appropriate.”

The police department and District Attorney’s Office faced sharp criticism for the length of time of the investigation. A source close to the investigation told PGN that, in the past week, police conducted about 20 interviews with people in the group and witnesses, each taking approximately four hours. The source added that each person in the group retained separate, private attorneys, which complicated the scheduling and interviewing process. The case was transferred to the D.A.’s Office Monday.

The victims, 27 and 28, were walking to get pizza when they say one brushed shoulders with a group member and were asked by that person if they were a couple.

“It’s very, very clear that the boys were attacked because they’re gay,” Kunkle said. “It started out with the question of, ‘Is that your fucking boyfriend?’ and then went to ‘I’m sick of you faggots, you dirty faggots’ the entire time the assault was happening. That to me is very clear why they were beat up. The language wasn’t, ‘You’re in my way’ or ‘I don’t like your T-shirt.’ It was, ‘You’re a fag.’”

Kunkle said the men are continuing to recuperate. The one victim has to keep his jaw wired shut for eight weeks.

“They’re both on a liquid diet, which is not easy,” Kunkle said. “My one friend is a culinary artist, so to add insult to injury, he’s used to cooking amazing things and he has to eat out of a straw now. But, they’re really staying positive. They have such a wonderful network of support around them.”

Seeing the response from the community and allies has been heartening, she said.

Kunkle last week launched an online petition (http://chn.ge/YcAxGQ) calling for expanded hate-crimes laws, which, as of presstime, had more than 8,000 signatures.

A rally was held in Harrisburg Tuesday calling on state legislators to add LGBT protections to the state hate-crimes law — during which state Sen. Jim Ferlo came out — and a similar demonstration is planned for Love Park in Philadelphia Thursday. 

There have also been calls for the federal government to prosecute the case under the Matthew Shepard Act. Patricia Hartman, public-affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, had no comment on the case as of presstime.

The management of La Viola West, the restaurant at which the assailants dined earlier in the night, issued a statement in support of the victims last week, saying they were “horrified to learn any of our patrons could have been involved in such a crime. Our thoughts are with the victims and we wish the gentlemen a speedy recovery. La Viola is committed to cooperating with authorities in any investigation.”

The management at Pennsylvania 6 offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the case. Penn 6 manager Tim Adams told PGN this week that he was to meet with detectives Thursday to discuss the reward.

Before the arrests, repercussions for the victims began surfacing. Last Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reported that it terminated 25-year-old Fran McGlinn from his position as an assistant basketball coach at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School for his alleged role in the incident. Archbishop Charles Chaput later said McGlinn resigned.

Many of the people in the group were reportedly Wood graduates and residents of Bucks County.

Kunkle, who is working to launch the Philadelphia Interactive Museum of Contemporary Art, with which both of the victims have been involved, had harsh words for the assailants.

“You may not come to our town and fuck with two of my artists,” Kunkle said. “And then think you can come back and enjoy a weekend. You can fuck with people in your own suburb as far as I’m concerned. Keep that right wherever the hell you live.”

While the incident was initially also classified as a robbery, robbery charges were not filed against the trio.

As the men were being attacked, one of their bags, containing a cell phone and wallet, fell to the ground and one of the assailants took it.

A source close to the investigation said one of the members of the group said she picked up the bag in the melee thinking it belonged to a companion and, upon realizing it did not, dropped it at 16th and Walnut streets. The bag was discovered by a homeless person, who used one of the victim’s credit cards. 


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