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Police chief's daughter cries in court after being convicted of assault on gay couple

Kathryn Knott
Kathryn Knott

A police chief's daughter was convicted of assault Friday but acquitted of the most serious charges in a violent attack on a gay couple last year that prompted the city of Philadelphia in the US to expand its hate crime laws to include sexual orientation.

A jury acquitted Kathryn Knott of four counts, including aggravated assault on each of the victims. She was convicted of simple assault, reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit simple assault after three days of deliberations.

Knott sobbed as she huddled with her parents in court after the verdict. She remains free on bail until her February 8 sentencing.

She testified she never shouted slurs at the men or threw a punch in the September 2014 assault that left one man with a broken jaw.

The 25-year-old daughter of a suburban police chief went to trial even after two male co-defendants got probation after pleading guilty in the case in October.

Sentencing guidelines call for probation on Knott's three misdemeanors, but she could get up to two years in jail.

The victims are not expected to speak to the media.

Witnesses said Knott was the blonde in a white dress who threw a punch during the attack. She told jurors she moved toward the victims to intervene.

Knott, of Southampton, Bucks County, was one of 15 friends, some from the same Catholic high school, who were out on the town to celebrate a birthday. The victims were walking to the city's popular "Gayborhood" to get pizza.

Co-defendant Philip Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aggravated assault and was sentenced to five years of probation, and Kevin Harrigan pleaded to conspiracy and simple assault and received three years of probation. Both are banned from downtown during their probation.

Both said the dispute did not stem from any homophobia on their parts, although witnesses said it began when someone in the group asked, in a profanity-laced slur, if the men were gay.

Prosecutors argued Knott's earlier tweets showed her bias against gays and a previous incident when she was thrown out of a bar, along with a patient X-ray purportedly from the hospital where she worked. She lost her job after her arrest and the social media disclosures.

City officials, motivated by the crime, moved weeks later to amend Philadelphia's hate-crime law.