Suspects in gay bashing due in court Tuesday

Suspects in gay bashing due in court Tuesday

A preliminary hearing is scheduled Tuesday in the Criminal Justice Center for two men and one woman charged with the brutal beating of two gay men in Rittenhouse this fall.

Kathryn Knott, 24, Philip Williams, 24, and Kevin Harrigan, 26, all could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on aggravated assault charges for the Sept. 11 attack that left one victim requiring surgery to have his jaw wired shut.

“The victims and their families are still emotionally recovering from the attack, that will be a long process,” said Caryn Kunkle, a friend and spokesman for the 27 and 28-year-old victims, who have requested to remain anonymous.

“Physically they are almost healed, but have visible scars. It is sad,” Kunkle said.

The two men, a gay couple, were walking near 16th and Chancellor streets around 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 11 when they encountered a group of about 15 people, one of whom asked the couple, according to police, “Are you gay?”

When the men said yes, a fight reportedly broke out.

The victims have said multiple members of the group attacked them.

But defense attorneys for the three defendants have countered that one of the victims initiated the brawl by striking a woman in the group.

One victim required surgery and had his jaw wired shut due fractures and deep lacerations to his face.

As the story went viral social media users identified a group of individuals resembling suspects seen in police surveillance footage.

One individual, a coach at a Catholic high school, was terminated from his position for suspected involvement, but was never charged.

The three defendants were charged two weeks after the attack.

At the preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether charges against the defendants should be upheld. Typically, victims and witnesses testify at such a hearing.

“They are totally dependent on the system now,” Kunkle said. “Very stressful for them because lots of lawyers, anger, persecution from the other side, et cetera.”

Kunkle also said the victims are waiting to see if the other 12 members of the group that attacked them will face charges.

“[They’re] still waiting on more arrests,” she said.

Under Pennsylvania state law, sexual orientation is not a protected class for “hate crimes” and no suspects face hate crime charges.

The attack launched an outpouring of support for amending the law.

State Rep. Brendan Boyle (R-Philadelphia) has introduced legislation to amend hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation.

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