Gay-bashing suspects face 20 years in prison after judge upholds aggravated assault charges

Three Bucks County residents were held on charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy for allegedly assaulting a gay couple in Rittenhouse at a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

“Horrifying” was how victim Zachary Hesse, 28, described the assault on himself and his boyfriend, Andrew Haught. The violent incident, which occurred on Sept. 11 at around 10:45 p.m., required Haught to undergo surgery to have his jaw wired shut.

The gay bashing drew national headlines after amateur sleuths used social media to identify several suspects shown in police surveillance footage.

Of the people identified, only Kevin Harrigan, 26, Kathryn Knott, 24, and Philip Williams, 24, were arrested and charged.

Hesse and Haught were on their way to get a slice of pizza when they encountered a group of 15 people walking north on 16th Street.

According to Hesse, the altercation began when Harrigan asked him if Haught was “f—— boyfriend?”

“Nobody had ever asked me that question before,” Hesse testified. “I said yeah, ‘that’s my f—— boyfriend.’”

Hesse told the court Harrigan responded with, “Oh, so you’re a fucking f——.” To which Hesse said he replied, “‘Maybe I am a dirty f—— f—–.'”

At that point Hesse said he looked around and realized he was “surrounded” by members of the group. He said Harrigan shoved him, and he returned the shove, and then according to Hesse, Harrigan punched him in the face – precipitating a melee.

“I was getting punched, I was getting hit,” Hesse testified. “My arms were held. I was trying to break free.”

According to Hesse’s testimony, a female who he identified as Knott was pointing at his face and calling him a “f—–” while his arms were held. He said he tried to push back – then was struck by Williams.

Around this point, Hesse said, he saw Haught lying on the ground and ran to him, then called for somebody to call an ambulance.

“He was lying in a pool of blood. … There was a laceration on his face, open and oozing blood. It was horrible,” said Hesse. “I thought something was horribly wrong.”

That’s when the group of attackers dispersed, Hesse told the court. “I think they realized the gravity of what they had done.”

An ambulance arrived and a police officer came to take a report from Hesse.

“I don’t really remember what I told her,” Hesse testified. “Andrew was in the ambulance, she really didn’t seem like she cared too much, as I was talking the ambulance started to leave … I had to chase the ambulance down 16th Street and bang on the door for them to let me in.”

Haught was hospitalized for five days, missed several weeks of work and had his jaw wired shut for eight weeks, Hesse said.

Haught did not testify at the hearing.

Defense attorneys for the trio disputed the charges, claiming that the testimony was vague and that Hess initiated the attack by pushing or striking Knott, as Williams allegedly only struck Hess after Knott was pushed.

“We don’t have a conspiracy, we don’t have a wolf-pack, a group of kids seeking somebody to beat up in Center City,” said Williams’ attorney Fortunato Perri Jr.

Louis Busico, Knott’s attorney, argued that his client never attacked any individual according to any testimony at the hearing.

“I’m disappointed she was ever charged,” Busico said after the hearing outside court.

“In my view there’s absolutely no evidence that she ever hurt or wanted to hurt anybody,” Busico said. “It’s been exceedingly stressful for her. She went from leading the life that many young people in their 20s lead in terms of working and establishing a career to undergoing intense media scrutiny for false allegations.”

Prosecutor Michael Barry said all three defendants were active participants in the attack.

“From the moment he [Hesse] was slurred, just a guy walking to get a slice of pizza with the man he loves, just because of who he is, was there ever a moment this slowed down?” Barry asked during the hearing.

“We wouldn’t have charged these people in the way we did if we didn’t think the charges would be upheld,” Barry said.

Barry said charges may be filed against other participants in the attack.

Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden upheld all charges against all three suspects.

The maximum possible sentence for aggravated assault is 20 years in prison.