Two men charged in the beating of a gay couple in Philadelphia last year have accepted a plea deal that requires them to stay away from the Center City neighborhood where the attack occurred and to perform community service for an LGBT organization.
As first reported by the local Philadelphia affiliate CBS 3 (CBS Philly), Philip Williams and Kevin Harrigan, both of Bucks County, Pa., will not serve time in prison but will be on probation for three to five years. During their probationary period, they must stay away from Center City. The duo were also ordered to serve 200 hours community service at an LGBT-related organization.
Both Williams and Harrigan were part of a group of young adults who confronted the gay couple after one of them accidentally made contact with one of the girls in the group. The group then began yelling anti-gay epithets at the couple, with Williams and Harrigan getting into a physical altercation. One of the victims was so severely hurt that he had to have his jaw wired shut for two months following the incident.
Following the incident, members of the public were able, via social media, to assist police in identifying the members of the group from a security camera photo taken of the group around the time of the incident. Williams and Harrigan were eventually arrested and charged along with one of the females from the group, Kathryn Knott, of Bucks County. Knott later decided not to accept a plea deal, instead choosing to forge forward with a trial.
According to CBS, Williams and Harrigan both issued apologies for their actions that night, with one saying, “it’s not who we are or what we believe in.”
Reaction to the plea deal was not well-received by members of the LGBT community. Dan Savage tweeted that the terms of the sentence for Williams and Harrigan were “appalling.” Sam Ritchie, of the Innocence Project, tweeted: “Outrageous. Gay men are beaten nearly to death & the thugs who brutalize get off with a slap on the wrist.” But other LGBT advocates have pointed out that because Pennsylvania lacks a hate crimes statute, none of the three defendants could have been charged with bias enhancements to the assault charges lodged against them.
Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Michael Barry defended his actions, insisting that the plea deal for the two men complied with the wishes of the victims, who did not wish to move forward with a trial.
“I’m very aware of the need for people who are gay, lesbian, or different in any way to be able to come to our city and feel safe and that like they can be left alone,” Barry said. “I understand what these people did shattered that feeling.”
CBS News reports that District Attorney Seth Williams issued his own statement on the plea deal, saying: “Today’s agreement is certainly about justice, but it is also about honoring the wishes of the victims to make sure they can continue to heal and gain closure.”
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