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COA upholds probation revocation based in part on failed conviction

September 27, 2017

The Indiana Court of Appeals found no violation of due process and sufficient evidence supported the revocation of a man’s probation for allegedly committing child molesting, even though he was acquitted on that charge.

Nicholaus Knecht was on probation when the state charged him with Class B felony child molesting based on his sexual encounters with a 13-year-old girl. A jury found him not guilty. Three days later, the state filed an amended petition to revoke his probation, alleging Knecht committed child molesting, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and reckless driving.

The teen, from Arizona, came to Indiana with her grandfather and met up with Knecht, then 21, whom she knew through her cousin and had been texting. Knecht picked her up in the middle of the night after she left where she was staying and the two had sex.

At the revocation hearing, neither Knecht nor the victim testified; instead, the state relied on the same evidence introduced at trial and introduced the trial transcript of the alleged victim’s testimony over Knecht’s objection. The trial court found the state proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Knecht had committed child molesting and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The court revoked his probation and ordered Knecht to serve his six-year suspended sentence in community corrections.

Knecht appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday in Nicholaus Knecht v. State of Indiana, 06A05-1701-CR-131. He raised several issues, including the right to cross examine witnesses and being denied due process. The judges found his case to be similar to Lightcap v. State, 863 N.E.2d 907 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007).

“In this case as in Lightcap, the trial testimony of the absent witness had been given under oath and the same judge presided over both the criminal trial and the probation revocation hearing,” Senior Judge Robert Rucker wrote. “Thus the record shows the testimony bore substantial guarantees of trustworthiness. And here also as in Lightcap Knecht was afforded the opportunity to cross examine witnesses and present evidence in his own defense at his criminal trial.”

Knecht also argued double jeopardy violations occurred and that the state didn’t prove he committed child molesting and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but the Court of Appeals also rejected those claims. The record supports the trial court’s conclusion that the state carried its burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. The judges also found no abuse of discretion in ordering Knecht to serve his sentence in community corrections, noting he committed the crimes within months of being placed on probation and that they were serious crimes.

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