Lawyers for two men and one woman accused of beating a gay couple in Center City last September have failed in their bid to convince a judge to drop some of the charges against the alleged assailants.
Common Pleas Judge Frank Palumbo offered no analysis and few words beyond denying the motion to quash an aggravated assault charge and conspiracy charges brought against the three defendants.
Defense attorney Fortunato Perri told the judge that a “poor choice of words” followed by “an offer to fight,” which was accepted, led to the violent episode.
Perri characterized the incident as a consensual brawl that quickly spun out of hand, despite how the incident has been portrayed as a mob of people beating the victims.
Because one of the victims, Zachary Hesse, never testified that he had experienced serious injuries, Perri argued one of the aggravated assault charges should be tossed out.
The other victim, Andrew Haught, sustained a broken jaw from the incident requiring him to get his jaw wired shut. Perri didn’t move to dismiss the aggravated assault charge connected to Haught’s injuries.
But the defense team questioned the conspiracy allegation, saying there was no intent beforehand to go after Hesse and Haught. Since it was a spontaneous event, they argued, conspiracy charges shouldn’t apply.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Barry said that’s not so, pointing out that a conspiracy charge is triggered when one or more people act together to commit a crime. Premeditation is not a requirement of the charge, he said.
Last September, Hesse and Haught were walking from a frozen yogurt shop in Rittenhouse Square when Kevin Harrigan, among a group of about 10 others, asked Haught if Hesse was his boyfriend. Following that, Harrigan allegedly called Hesse an anti-gay slur leading to shoving, which escalated into a violent beating, according to testimony.
The three main actors in the beating, according to prosecutors, were Harrigan, Phillip Williams and Kathryn Knott, all in their early 20s and from Bucks County.
Prosecutors say Haught was left lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. And Hesse was left with bone fractures and cuts to his face. The group fled before authorities arrived.
Police released video of the alleged perpetrators, which was seized on by Twitter users, whose social media detective work helped identity the three who are now facing charges.
After the Thursday hearing Assistant District Attorney Barry said the judge’s ruling was expected.
“All this was making sure this case goes to a jury so fellow Philadelphians can decide what should be done with this case. We feel confident that they’re guilty of all the charges,” Barry said.
“It was a brutal incident that I think they all were on board for. One person is the person who committed it, but they were all committing a pretty brutal group action against these two people,” Barry said.
Charges leveled against the trio include aggravated assault, conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person. If convicted on all counts, they could face multiple years in prison.
Aggravated assault carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in prison.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated which person was badly injured by the alleged September altercation. It was Andrew Haught, not Kevin Harrigan.