A suspended Atlantic City fire captain was acquitted Friday of sexually assaulting a teenager for the second time.
Roderick Knox, 47, of Egg Harbor Township, was accused of assaulting the then-13-year-old girl in 1995. The case was reopened in 2010, after his then-foster daughter, 15, made similar accusations. Knox was acquitted in that case last year.
Now, the question is: When can the 20-year veteran return to his former job? Knox was arrested Feb. 18, 2011, while working at Fire Station 5 at Annapolis and Crosson avenues. He was immediately suspended without pay. Payroll records from last year show his annual pay was about $104,325.
In a letter Knox wrote to a reporter for The Press of Atlantic City and brought to court Friday, prior to the verdict being read, he said it was “the end of my trial and a two-year vendetta by the (Atlantic County) Prosecutor’s Office.”
Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon and asked to have a playback of the testimony given by the alleged victim, a now-30-year-old woman identified as S.W.
They returned Friday morning and, after about an hour more of discussion, returned the unanimous verdict.
“I am very happy for Mr. Knox and his family,” defense attorney Stephen Funk said outside the courtroom. “This case, like the first, was completely bogus, and both juries — (a total of) 24 fair-minded citizens — saw these allegations for what they were: nonsense.”
The allegations first were brought up in 1997 by Michael Applewhite, who admitted to assaulting S.W. as well. In his confession, he told investigators the girl had said Knox — whom he knew — also molested her.
In a phone interview, Applewhite said it was he who is now suffering from the charges being dredged up.
“I made a mistake back then, and I manned up and accepted responsibility for my actions,” said the man, who is now a deacon at the Shiloh Temple Apostolic Cathedral in Atlantic City and a Pleasantville business owner. “I didn’t even want to come to court and testify in this case in the first place.”
He said he has worked hard over the past 15 years “to give myself and my family name some honor again,” adding that it is not for him to judge Knox’s guilt or innocence.
In his three-page letter, Knox said he was giving a written statement because when he was acquitted last time, the newspaper “refused to acknowledge God.”
However, a story at that time did quote Knox as saying: “God — that’s what got me through.”
The letter accuses the Prosecutor’s Office detective who reopened the case of being “hell bent on convicting me, an innocent man, for personal reasons I believe are associated with the Fire Department, who I have a lawsuit against.”
He also says the department had a hand in the “vendetta,” including responding to a records request from him that would help in his defense by saying the records did not exist, while then providing the state with documents from the same time.
Knox did not blame Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer, who represented the state, saying he “did act professional and displayed great class throughout.” And he called his own attorney — who represented him in both cases — “the greatest defense lawyer out there.”
Funk said he should know within a week what will happen next as far as Knox returning to the Fire Department.
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