Convicted gay basher Kathryn Knott has been booked at Riverside Correctional Facility after a judge sentenced her this week to prison time for her role in a 2014 gay bashing.
After hugging her parents, Knott, sobbing, was led out of Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center by several awaiting sheriffs Monday afternoon.
Common Pleas Judge Roxanne Covington sentenced Knott to 5-10 months in prison, a $2,000 fine and two years of probation to be served after her prison sentence. She will also have to undergo anger-management classes, and a stay-away order will be issued prohibiting contact between Knott and victims Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught and their families.
Haught and Hesse were walking to get pizza around 16th and Chancellor streets Sept. 11, 2014, when they encountered Knott and a group of 14 of her friends, one of whom used an antigay slur towards the men. A physical attack ensued, leaving Haught with multiple broken bones.
During the sentencing hearing Monday afternoon before a packed courtroom, prosecutor Mike Barry asked for a sentence of 9-23 months in prison, while defense attorney Louis Busico urged probation.
Busico argued that Knott, 25, is a first-time offender, and shouldn't be subject to prison time, as Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams, her co-defendants, received none; both pleaded guilty last year to felony charges and received probation and community service.
Knott was offered a similar sentence, but rejected it, taking her case to a jury trial. She was convicted in December of four misdemeanor charges, each of which carried a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
"The person who put his fist up to Mr. Haught was told he was going home with a felony. The man who disfigured Mr. Haught got probation," Busico said.
Barry told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing that Knott's heavier sentence was a result of her decision to not take the plea, and to not take responsibility.
"The fact is that those [plea] offers were made to keep Zach and Andrew from the trauma of re-testifying; of the worry, trauma and disruption of their lives of a trial; and to give them the peace of mind of knowing an admission of guilt took place. None of that was done by Ms. Knott. She refused. That's why she finds herself where she is right now," Barry said.
Busico attempted to characterize the plea negotiations as unfair to his client, though Barry said after the proceeding that Busico proposed Knott's enrollment in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program and a summary charge as her only penalty, which he said was not acceptable to the District Attorney's Office.
Busico also contended that Knott has suffered adequate punishment already. The incident led to her termination from her position as an emergency-room technician and resulted in intense media scrutiny and even death threats, Busico said. He said it has impacted her relationships and will continue to arise if she chooses to marry or have children in the future.
"This limits her professionally and her interaction with society forever. She has had her life threatened, she was excoriated by local, regional and national media — and that was all done with a backdrop of the presumption of innocence," Busico said. "She has been punished. Maybe not in the true, traditional sense, but in a way that has been scarring and permanent. She's been held accountable in a way we don't normally see a simple assault case. There will never be another day in her life where she will be anything but convicted."
Barry, however, contended that the lasting impact was more severe for the victims.
"Andrew has a scar right in the middle of his face," he said. "If he chooses to marry, it will be right there in his wedding photos. If he chooses to have children, he'll have to answer the question, 'Hey Dad, how did you get that scar?' Every morning when he looks in the mirror, there it is. He has a scar to carry around the rest of his life, and he didn't do anything. There has been this theme that 'Something happened to Kathryn Knott.' This didn't happen to her; she did it. Mr. Busico mentioned the consequence she will have trouble finding a job. Good."
Barry went on to reference several of Knott's social-media postings in which she shared private patient information, or made racial or ethnic jokes.
"If the consequence of this is that she's not in the medical field, I say thank God," he said.
He also emphasized the impact of the case on Philadelphia's reputation as an LGBT-friendly city.
"This city is supposed to be safe for gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, queer people," Barry said. "If LGBT go to a restaurant, out in another town, they have to wonder what they will face on the other side of the door: Can we hold hands? Can we kiss? Center City is supposed to be a place where gay and lesbian people can walk without looking over their shoulders. But that woman and her two friends took that away."
Haught took the stand to read a victim-impact statement. He said that while his physical injuries have healed, he continues to struggle with the fact that Knott and her friends left him bleeding on the ground.
"The one thing I can't get past is that the whole group left us," he said, saying they went on to have a "carefree night" while he was rushed to the emergency room. "Every member of that group, including Kathryn Knott, left me in that alley to die."
Covington also considered a statement from Knott herself.
Wearing a gray sweater and black pants, Knott took off her glasses to read her prepared letter, crying throughout.
"I'm so sorry this happened," she said, turning and speaking directly to Haught and Hesse for the first time. "No matter what led to this encounter, you did not deserve what happened to you. Andrew, I'm sorry for the injuries you suffered and the names you were called. Zachary, I'm sorry you were hurt and were the victim of slurs."
She noted that, during the plea-negotiation process, she had requested, through her attorney, to meet with the victims.
"I asked for the three of us to meet because I thought, maybe naively, that we could put this behind us and some small good could come out of the horror of that night," Knott said. "I ask for your forgiveness. And I hope that this case has educated people, including myself, about the need to be understanding and sensitive. I apologize to you and to your families and wish you nothing but the best."
Haught wiped away tears as Knott finished her statement.
Barry said later he believed the apology was credible, but that it came too late.
"She did give a very sincere apology in court, I can't deny that," he said. "But throughout the discussion of this case, and the language about this case, she repeatedly shifted blame onto other people and didn't accept responsibility. Williams and Harrigan got the sentences they did because they went above and beyond: They admitted their guilt and took the responsibility of their sentence. She did none of that. It's not that she got more by taking this to trial, but it's about not getting the break the other two got because she couldn't see the opportunity that was in front of her."
Before handing down the sentence, Covington, seeming to choose her words carefully, concurred with Barry's argument that Knott did not appear to be remorseful for her role in the incident.
"There has been a lack of appreciation for the seriousness of this crime," Covington said.
Apart from the physical role she played in the incident, Covington said she was dismayed that Knott did nothing to stop it, and left Haught, who suffered multiple broken bones, nearly unconscious on the ground.
"For someone in the medical field, I don't know how you could walk away and leave someone bleeding on the street," Covington said directly to Knott. "The entire group walked away. And until their faces were on the news, no one took responsibility. And they did only to save themselves from prosecution. None of the three [prosecuted] here would be here if others didn't rat you out."
Covington, who presided over the weeklong case in December, said hearing the testimony in court made her think of two gay friends of hers, who are recently engaged.
"What if it was those two gentlemen who were walking that night? Or I thought, What if it was me and a girlfriend, me and my sister or even me and my boyfriend? It could've been any of us," she said, looking pointedly at both sides of the court. "These were homophobic slurs, but it couldn't been any hateful slur."
Covington added that the state legislature has "not properly or formally" included LGBT protections in its hate-crimes law, but said that does not stop her from viewing this case as a "violation of human rights."
"You can't unring a bell that has been rung," she said after several tense minutes of silence before she began her sentencing address. "If you put a nail in a wall, there remains a hole. That's what happened in this incident."
Covington sentenced Knott to 1-2 months in prison and a $500 fine for the simple assault conviction for Hess; 1-2 months and a $500 fine for the conspiracy to commit simple assault; 3-6 months in prison and a $500 fine for reckless endangerment for Haught; and two years' probation and a $500 fine for reckless endangerment for Hesse.
Knott covered her mouth and began sobbing after Covington read the first prison sentence. Her mother attempted to run up to the defense desk where Knott was seated to comfort her, but was restrained by sheriffs.
Busico requested that Knott be allowed to self-report to prison at a later date, but Covington denied that request, saying sheriffs were on hand to take Knott in straight away.
"She can surrender now," the judge said.