Two suspects who pleaded guilty in a 2014 gay-bashing case have agreed to stay out of Center City while on probation.
Phillip Williams and Kevin Harrigan pleaded guilty Thursday to assaulting a gay couple near 13th and Chancellor Street in a negotiated plea deal under which they will see no jail time. A third, Kathryn Knott, is going to trial.
“I am very sorry for what happened that night,” Williams said. “That’s not how I live my life.”
The attack sparked outrage after the victims and some witnesses alleged it was a hate crime and the suspects were identified by amatuer internet sleuths on social media — though sexual orientation is not a protected class under state bias crime statutes.
Prosecutors say that the victims in the case, a gay couple, were walking down the street when a verbal altercation started with a large group of about 10 people.
Exactly what happened hasn’t played out in court. Williams and Harrigan did not acknowledge using homophobic slurs. Harrigan said in court that things got out of hand. Williams said he believed he was defending a woman in the group who was involved in an argument with the men.
But prosecutors say a witness was prepared to testify that Harrigan allegedly called one of the victims a “dirty f--t.”
The subsequent beating was vicious. One of the men suffered a broken orbital bone and a broken jaw, which was wired shut for eight weeks.
One of the reasons this struck a chord is because this happened in Center City, which has historically been a haven for gay, lesbian and transgender people, Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry said.
“Center City is a place where this is not supposed to happen,” Barry said.
Williams, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, will serve five years of probation and perform 200 hours of community service at an organization for gay, lesbian, and transgender people. Harrigan pleaded guilty to simple assault. He’ll serve three years of probation and do community service.
Both men, who live in Bucks County, will not be allowed to set foot between Girard Avenue and Washington Avenue, between the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.
Knott is taking her chances at trial, which hasn’t been scheduled. According to prosecutors, she took a swing at one of the victims, and didn’t make contact.
“There’s no doubt that there was an argument that became physical,” said her lawyer, Lewis Busico, “She and the other women were trying to calm things down."