The three Bucks County residents arrested earlier this month for allegedly attacking two gay men in Center City will have a joint preliminary hearing on Dec. 16, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Following that hearing, a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.

The defendants - Kathryn Knott, 24, Philip Williams, 24, and Kevin Harrigan, 26 - were excused from having to appear at the status hearing by agreement with the District Attorney's Office.

But attorneys for Knott, of Southampton, and Harrigan, of Warrington, said their clients are not gay-bashers.

Williams did not utter any homophobic slurs during the Sept. 11 incident near Rittenhouse Square, said his attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr.

"Fortunately, my client will have a chance to present this case in a court of law instead of the court of public opinion," Perri told reporters.

When asked if Williams had been struck or if he struck either of the two gay men, Perri said: "We'll resolve that matter in a court of law."

Attorney Joshua Scarpello, who represents Harrigan, said, "There certainly is another side to this case, there always is, and it's going to come to light."

The initial news reports of the incident are not accurate, he suggested.

"This was less of a mob attack and more of a confrontation between two groups of people. Words were exchanged and those words led to fists," Scarpello said.

Attorney Louis Busico, of Newtown, Bucks County, who represents Knott, could not be reached for comment. He was represented by an associate at the hearing.

The three defendants are each charged with two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person; and one count each of criminal conspiracy.

"This vicious attack shocked the entire country. An assault on people because of their sexual orientation has no place in Philadelphia," District Attorney Seth Williams said at the time of the defendants' arrests.

The defendants were among a group of about 15 people who got into an argument with the gay couple on Chancellor Street near 16th.

The couple, who has been together for six years, told investigators that Harrigan shouted the first gay slur, Williams attacked both of them and that Knott participated in the name calling and physical assault, a police source told the Daily News.

Both gay men were briefly hospitalized, and one suffered severe facial injuries that required his jaw to be wired shut.

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