Antigay tweets to be included in gay-bashing trial

Antigay tweets to be included in gay-bashing trial

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Four tweets that the prosecution characterizes as antigay will be admitted as evidence during the trial of Kathryn Knott for her alleged role in last year’s attack of a gay couple in Center City, Judge Roxanne Covington ruled at a motions hearing Tuesday.

“Those tweets may or may not be interpreted as anti-homosexual,” she said. “I will leave those arguments to be made for the jury.”

Jury selection takes place Dec. 9, with the trial expected to begin later that month. Knott faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and conspiracy in the Sept. 11, 2014, attack of Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught on Chancellor Street.

Knott remains free after posting part of her $50,000 bail, and attended the Nov. 24 hearing at the Criminal Justice Center with her parents. In October, Knott’s co-defendants, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, accepted plea deals from the District Attorney’s office that included probation and community service at an LGBT organization, but no jail time. Knott refused a similar agreement.

In court Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry highlighted tweets Knott made prior to the incident that said, “The ppl we were just dancing with just turned and made out with each other #gay #ew” and “Jazz flute is for little fairy boys.”

“Ms. Knott has demonstrated a dislike of gay people,” Barry said. “It’s so tied up in the motive and story of the case. I have every right to prove she does not like gay people and that was what caused this fight.”

Louis R. Busico, Knott’s lawyer, called the prosecution’s request to admit the tweets “a smear tactic.” In the first tweet, he noted the gender of the people who kissed is not mentioned and it might have been “just two goofy people” of opposite sex.

“You can interpret the word ‘gay’ in several different ways,” he said of the hashtag.

Busico said the tweet that references “fairy boys” is a line from the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman” and doesn’t necessarily reflect Knott’s personal views. He added most of the tweets the prosecution wants to admit come from 2010 and 2011.

“I guess if we scrutinized everyone’s social media over a 48-month time period, I tend to think we’d all have things that maybe didn’t sound the best,” he said.

Covington ruled that about 20 other tweets from Knott would be excluded from trial. They pertained to bias against minorities and confrontations that arose after drinking alcohol.

Covington said she would wait to see if the issue arises at trial before deciding whether to admit some tweets that the prosecution says would refute any claims from character witnesses that Knott is lawful and truthful. One tweet claimed Knott’s father, Karl Knott, chief of the Chalfont Borough Police Department in Bucks County, allowed her to kick down a door during a raid.

“We’re not seeking to get every tweet in that makes Ms. Knott look like a bad person, only what’s relevant,” Barry said. “She is not entitled to have the record sanitized of relevant facts.

Busico also requested that the prosecution not be allowed to argue that the incident involving Knott was a hate crime, because there is no protection for LGBT people in state hate-crime law. 

“This court is aware that the legislature has failed to include sexual preference in the hate crime statue,” Covington said. “However, that which our legislature has overlooked does not prohibit the commonwealth from categorizing the behavior, even if it is not charged as that type of crime.” 

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