Trial under way for MHS coach

Football coach Don Knock accused of assaulting student; court case resumes today


On Thursday it was day one of Marshalltown High School head football coach Don Knock’s trial in Marshall County Associate Court with Judge Kim Riley presiding.

Knock, 62, was charged earlier this year with simple assault by the Marshalltown Police Department after he allegedly pushed, grabbed and slapped the face 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 intervening during a dispute between students.

“It was an assault that caused no (physical) injury,” Batterson said.

Batterson noted the MHS student resource officer and the parents of the students were made aware of the incident on Jan. 3, and following an investigation by the MPD, a review of the matter by the Marshall County Attorney’s office, and the parents’ desire to press charges, Knock was formally arrested and charged.

Assistant Marshall County Attorney Torey Robinson is prosecuting, while local attorney Kevin O’Hare of Peglow, O’Hare & See is defending Knock.

The empanelment of a six member jury, consisting of three men and three women, and opening statements from Robinson and O’Hare took up much of the morning, with multiple witnesses and evidence until late afternoon.

In her remarks, Robinson said the state would show compelling evidence Knock assaulted the student.

O’Hare rebutted, saying Knock was compliant with school district policy and other statutes by intervening to break up an altercation between students.

The jury heard testimony from the victim, as well as from another student — the victim’s cousin — who witnessed the incident.

Also on the stand were MHS Attendance Secretary Dianne Floyd, Human Resources Director Anthony Spurgetis, MHS School Resource Officer Rodney Whitmore of the MPD, and Det. Randy Kessler.

After interviewing Knock at MPD headquarters, Kessler filed the charges.

Central to the prosecution’s case is a MPD video of Kessler interviewing Knock, and Knock admitted to taking the students face in hand to get his attention.

Near the conclusion of the day’s activities, Robinson said the state had made a case against Knock while O’Hare countered it had not, and made a motion to have charges dismissed against Knock.

Riley disagreed, and ruled for the prosecution.

A large contingent of Knock’s family, including his wife Cindy, observed proceedings.

The trial resumes today at 9 a.m., in Associate Courtroom Two with O’Hare expected to call numerous witnesses, one of which is expected to be Don Knock.

Earlier this year the school district issued a statement:

“The Marshalltown Community School District is aware of the charges that have been filed against one of its employees. This is a personnel matter that was addressed by the district at an earlier date. As this is a personnel matter, the district will not provide additional comment.”

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 briefly 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.

Times-Republican Sports Editor Ross Thede contributed to this report.