Not guilty

MHS football coach cleared of assault

Marshalltown head football coach Don Knock was found not guilty of simple assault by a Marshall County Associate Court jury Friday afternoon.

“I want to thank my family and the community,” Knock said in a brief telephone interview with the Times-Republican.

Kevin O’Hare, Knock’s attorney, said he had no comment.

An email request to Marshall County Attorney Jennifer Miller requesting comment was not returned before press time Friday.

The six-member jury of three men and three women returned the sealed verdict to Judge Kim Riley after deliberating approximately one hour.

A sealed verdict means the jury’s decision — required to be unanimous — was reported to the judge, and not read in open court before the defendant, attorneys and jury.

Knock, 62, was charged earlier this year with simple assault by the Marshalltown Police Department after he allegedly grabbed, pushed and slapped the face of a 14-year old male student — a freshman — in the school’s weight room.

Marshalltown Police Capt. Brian Batterson said the alleged assault occurred Jan. 3 when the student claimed there was “unwanted contact” while Knock, a physical education instructor claimed he was attempting to de-fuse a potentially hostile situation among students.

Additionally, Knock claimed he was following MCSD protocol in handling the incident.

Assistant County Attorney Torey Robinson told the court repeatedly throughout the two day trial Knock’s actions had “crossed the line and went a step too far.”

Day two of deliberations saw O’Hare call Knock to the witness stand and testify under oath to his version of events.

At issue was the physical contact.

Robinson told the court repeatedly Knock had “grabbed, pushed and slapped the student.”

Knock claimed the student used profanity against him, and he had touched the student’s face, who was looking down at the time and walking away from him, to get the student’s attention.

Robinson also used Knock’s own words against him throughout the trial.

In an interview several days after the incident, Knock had told MPD Det. Randy Kessler of the Marshalltown Police Department he “had slapped the student a little.”

That interview with audio was played before the jury.

Knock said he had cooperated with the investigation, and responded voluntarily to Kessler’s request for an interview.

He alleged Kessler did not inform him the interview was being taped.

Knock also testified that “he should have let the student walk out of the room.”

Another video, without audio, of the weight room incident was played numerous times.

Also called to the witnesses stand Friday were several character witnesses who cited Knock’s coaching and teaching skills.

In instructions to the jury, Riley deliberately and systematically reviewed with the jury the state statue on assault and the jury’s duty to consider evidence.

On Friday the school district issued this statement:

“The Marshalltown Community School District is aware of the court proceedings involving one of its staff members. The district addressed the matter earlier in the year as an internal personnel item. Since this is a personnel matter the district will not comment additionally at this time,” said MCSD Communications Director Andrew Potter.

Knock’s wife Cindy, three of four sons, and an older brother were present for the entirety of proceedings.

They were joined by numerous supporters, including fellow coaches, educators and students.

Knock has been Marshalltown High School’s head varsity football coach for two seasons, hired in May 2015 to replace Aaron Shipley. The Bobcats went 3-6 in Knock’s first season in the fall of 2015, and the 2016 campaign ended with a 2-7 record. In 26 seasons as a varsity football coach, Knock has a career mark of 133-98 that includes a 1984 state championship at Grundy Center.

A Parkersburg native, Knock played football at Central College and with the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League. He has coached at Rockwell-Swaledale, Grundy Center, Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Kickapoo in Springfield, Mo. Knock served on Dan McCarney’s coaching staff at Iowa State, working with the offensive line, and served stints on staff at the University of South Dakota, University of Nebraska-Omaha and Grand View University.

Prior to coming to Marshalltown, Knock had been the athletic director at Gilbert High School for the previous six years.