KM&A on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against Kathryn Knott, former Police Chief Karl Knott, District Attorney David Heckler, and two Bucks County Detectives for retaliation and conspiracy. The suit alleges that Kathryn Knott, convicted of the gay-bashing attack and sentenced to jail earlier this year, conspired with her father, the D.A., and the detectives to silence a Montgomery County woman who had been critical of the younger Knott on the internet. About a year after she began posting comments critical of Ms. Knott online, two detectives were sent to her workplace, and they got her fired.
Kathleen O’Donnell, 61, closely followed news reports of Ms. Knott’s participation in the brutal beating of two gay men on a street in Center City Philadelphia. Ms. O’Donnell posted comments on some of the many news articles published about the attack under the username “Knotty is a Tramp” via Disqus.com. The complaint states that Ms. O’Donnell used the Disqus.com account to parody Ms. Knott and her crime as the investigation and eventual trial played out in the media.
The two Bucks County Detectives, Mark Zielinski and Martin McDonough, first privately met with Ms. O’Donnell’s boss at Walker Parking Consultants, and accused one of his employees of using a company computer to “harass” someone on the internet. They then brought Ms. O’Donnell into the room and threatened, in front of her boss, to arrest her if she did not stop “impersonating” Ms. Knott using the moniker “Knotty is a Tramp.” The detectives continued to speak with Ms. O’Donnell’s boss after she left the room and implied that the company could receive negative publicity if Ms. O’Donnell were arrested, because she published some of the comments from her work computer. As a direct result of the detectives’ actions, Ms. O’Donnell was fired later that day.
The complaint charges the defendants with conspiring to retaliate against Ms. O’Donnell for exercising her First Amendment free speech rights, and seeks damages in excess of $5 million.
Full text of this complaint, as filed with the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is available at docket no: 2:16-cv-02040.
Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC is an employment civil rights law firm with principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, serving all counties in Pennsylvania. KM&A clients include employees, small businesses, and people with a variety of legal issues.
For more information about this case, contact Lead Attorney Sean Ruppert, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org. KM&A attorneys Martell Harris, Esq., and Nelson Berardinelli, Esq. are serving as co-counsel.