MAYS LANDING — A suspended Atlantic City fire captain was found not guilty Wednesday of having a sexual relationship with his 15-year-old foster daughter in 2010.
But there is still another hurdle before Roderick Knox can get back the job he held for nearly two decades.
Knox, 47, was acquitted of 13 charges of aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual contact after a jury deliberated less than two hours.
The Egg Harbor Township man remains charged in a separate incident that allegedly occurred with a minor in 1995 and was discovered while the more recent allegation was being investigated. The jury was not informed of that case.
“It was the most hideous thing you could be accused of,” Knox said of the charges he was just cleared of outside the courtroom after the verdict. “I can’t stand people that do stuff like that.”
He testified it was the girl — whose name is not being published due to the nature of the charges — who expressed a sexual attraction to him and that she made up the stories because he told her he had to report her inappropriate thoughts to her caseworker.
“He’s been very, very strong in knowing that the truth would come out,” friend Fareed Abdullah said.
Knox put his head in his hands and wept after the verdict was read.
“Free, free, free,” he repeated as he hugged family members inside the courtroom.
“God,” Knox said outside court. “That’s what got me through.”
He will be back in court Nov. 14, when Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury will hear a motion to have the pending charges from 1995 dismissed. Until that happens, Knox remains suspended from his job without pay.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office went back that far because they wanted to add to the charges to force him to take a plea, Knox said outside the courtroom Wednesday.
He happily stood with defense attorney Stephen Funk.
“If he didn’t believe in me, he would not have been able to defend my case the way he did,” Knox said.
“To me, this shows we’re not in Salem (Mass.) in the 1600s any more,” Funk said. “You can’t have a troubled girl make accusations and have an impartial jury just go along with it. That’s comforting.”
Less than an hour into their discussions, jurors asked for copies of texts Knox’s eldest daughter, Amber, sent to her mother along with logs Knox testified to keeping about incidents with the alleged victim, who lived in his Egg Harbor Township house about three weeks.
DeLury told the jurors none of that had been admitted into evidence, so instead they spent about an hour watching video of testimony Amber Knox, now 19, gave that included mentions of those texts.
On Sept. 1, 2010, Amber, her sister and father returned home to find that the alleged victim had told Knox’s current wife, Nicola Marie, that the two were having sex and was no longer in the house. Amber testified the girl made the same allegations to her the night before.
While her father and “Miss Marie” discussed it, Amber ran from the home.
“Mommy, it all came out,” Amber texted. “Daddy was having sex with (his foster daughter) and he went back in her room last night when I was up all night. I can’t take this.”
The text meant that the accuser was alleging the sex happened, not that Amber saw it, the teen testified. She said she was running while texting, so her thoughts may not have been clear.
Amber testified that the girl told her there would be a sexual encounter that night and had Amber promise to leave her bedroom door open so she would hear. But Amber said that she heard nothing but her father snoring when she went by his bedroom on the way to the bathroom.
She didn’t get any sleep that night, Amber said. But she never heard anything, including music, which the alleged victim said was played during the encounter in Knox’s bedroom.
Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer asked Amber if the reason she was upset was because she believed the allegations.
“If it was a lie, there would be no reason to be upset,” he said.
“That’s not true,” Amber replied. “It was too much for me to handle to hear this about your father.”
Less than an hour after rewatching the testimony, the jury reached its verdict.
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