Philly Gay Basher Kathryn Knott Claims Self-Defense in Civil Suit

Kathryn Knott

In a filing entered last month in the civil suit related to the brutal assault on a gay couple in Philadelphia in September 2014, defendant Kathryn Knott – convicted of assaulting Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught with two others that took plea bargains in exchange for lighter sentences – claims she was acting in self-defense when she participated in the group assault on the couple. The plea stands at odds with her story at the criminal proceedings as well as eye-witness accounts and actual video footage of the assault.

Philadelphia Gay News reported on the civil suit plea:

Like her two co-defendants, Kathryn Knott is contending she acted in self-defense during a high-profile attack on a gay couple in Center City.

Knott made the claim in a June 23 court filing in a civil case brought by plaintiffs Andrew Haught and Zachary Hesse, who are seeking at least $500,000 in damages. The couple is also suing Phillip Williams and Kevin Harrigan for the September 2014 attack at 16th and Chancellor streets; witnesses said the trio used antigay slurs during the incident, which began as a verbal altercation and escalated to a physical attack that left Haught with extensive facial fractures.

In her plea, Knott’s attorney argued she:

“…asserts the affirmative defense of self-defense, and to the extent plaintiffs sustained the injuries and damages as alleged in plaintiffs’ complaint, said injuries and/or damages were sustained while [Knott] was in the process of defending herself from the real and perceived threat of bodily injury arising from the actions of plaintiffs and their friends.”

The plea mirrors the other two defendants’ pleas blaming other members of the large group of 15 people that collectively assaulted the couple.

What’s curious about Knott’s statement is the mention of “and their friends” as Haught and Hesse did not have any friends with them or nearby; all other persons involved in the assault were in Knott’s group of friends.

The language mentioning hereto unknown “friends” also appears in the other defendants’ pleas.

In the original case, Kathryn Knott, Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams all faced prison time for their parts in the brutal assault on Andrew Haught and Zachary Hesse in the City Center neighborhood of Philadelphia. Williams and Harrigan accepted plea bargains allowing them to complete community service in exchange for a guilty plea while Knott refused, went to trial, and was convicted. She served five months in prison for her part in the assault.

Knott’s plea stands in contradiction with her own testimony (under oath) during the criminal proceedings that led to her conviction. While she claims now that she acted in self-defense, she testified during the criminal trial she never “touched a soul” nor uttered any anti-LGBTQ pejoratives.

While her current plea is more believable than her plea in the previous trial (especially given her anti-LGBTQ social media history), it still doesn’t mesh with eye witness accounts or video footage of the encounter.

A settlement conference for the civil case is scheduled for September 13, 2017. If no settlement is reached, pre-trial will begin in November and the civil trial will begin in December.


Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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