Knappenberger found guilty of indecent assault

A Warren man has been found guilty at jury trial of indecent assault against a 12-year-old girl.

And he faces pending charges for allegedly attempting to burn down the home where the victim resided while she and six others were inside.

Jackson Kent Knappenberger, 25, E. Third Ave., was convicted of corruption of minors and indecent assault during a Thursday jury trial at the Warren County Courthouse. Judge Gregory Hammond, who presided over the trial, also found him guilty of a summary count of harassment.

He is being held in the Warren County Jail without bond on the other docket, which includes charges of criminal attempt – criminal homicide, criminal attempt – aggravated assault, arson and retaliation among other offenses.

It’s alleged that he went to the victim’s residence back in December and set fires with gasoline at both the front and back door. He was located by police barefoot, muddy and smelling strongly of gasoline. Online court records indicate that that case was continued to the next trial term last month.

Thursday’s trial stemmed from allegations made against him that occurred last Memorial Day weekend.

Knappenberger was charged after the victim made the allegation to her mother after the incident, which occurred on May 27 while camping at Buckaloons.

District Attorney Rob Greene said in his opening statement that this is not an “overly complicated case.”

He said the victim’s mother had been dating Knappenberger and said the camping trip fell around the victim’s birthday.

“Little did (the victim) know this is a camping trip she would never forget,” he said.

Knappenberger’s attorney, Chief Public Defender John Parroccini, asked the jury to keep an eye out for the missing piece of the puzzle and to keep an open mind.

The victim was first to testify and said she was “playing this clown game” with Knappenberger and a sibling. Other testimony indicated that Knappenberger was wearing a clown mask and they were jumping out and scaring people.

During that “game,” Knappenberger inappropriately touched the victim and made the victim inappropriately touch him.

The victim said she reported the conduct to her mother.

Her mother was next to testify and said that the victim asked her to tuck her into bed which she thought odd and testified at that point that her daughter said she didn’t like Knappenberger anymore and informed her that he had touched her.

The mother testified that she then punched Knappenberger in the face.

“He was denying it, saying he don’t know anything about it,” she testified, explaining that she took him home and eventually called police.

She provided Pennsylvania State Police a written statement which included Knappenberger told her he was sorry and “wished he could take it all back.”

She testified that in the wake of the incident she started seeing Knappenberger again. Greene asked if she told the victim.

“I told her something different,” she responded.

Greene asked her how she feels about Knappenberger.

“I hate him for what he did to my daughter and my life,” she said, “but I do care because he’s the father of my other daughter. (I) think he’s an (individual) who needs help.”

Parroccini asked if her daughter’s revelation shocked her.

“For sure,” she said, noting he was “drunk that night.”

“He never specifically said he touched” the victim, Parroccini said. “Yes,” her mother responded.

She testified during cross-examination that she went swimming with Knappenberger the Sunday after the incident and told him about calling the police.

Trooper Jeff Osborne with the Pennsylvania State Police testified that he was the lead investigator on this case an interviewed Knappenberger on June 2.

Greene asked Osborne if he told him what happened.

“Mostly,” Osborne testified, indicating he asked Knappenberger how much he had had to drink and Knappenberger said “enough.”

Osborne said that because of his level of intoxication he was unable to confirm or deny the incident.

Greene said he was too drunk to say.

“That’s the gist of it,” Osborne said, though he noted Knappenberger said the victim would not make it up. “Disgusted was the only word he used to describe his actions.”

Parroccini asked Osborne if Knappenberger said he committed the offense and Osborne said he did not.

Knappenberger affirmed to Hammond that he did not want to take the stand.

In closing, Parroccini said that “if you find there was something missing… (you) have to find Jackson not guilty” and speculated that the victim’s mother’s conduct is “odd behavior for a mother” who “exposed (the) other two children to Jackson Knappenberger.” He also said that the mother might be motivated by a lack of child support from Knappenberger.

He said that “at no time did he admit” to touching the victim.

“Nothing that she said has been contradicted,” Greene said in closing. He said the victim “will have to remember” the incident “for a lifetime. The statements made are uncontradicted. Her statements alone are enough” to find Knappenberger guilty.

The jury evidently agreed.

They were sent to start deliberations at 11:23 a.m. and court came back into session – verdict in hand – at 11:49 a.m.

According to state Megan’s Law information, the corruption of minors charge carries a 15 year sexual offender registration period.

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