A suspended Atlantic City fire captain testified Tuesday that he never had a sexual relationship with the 15-year-old girl who lived in his home as a foster daughter for three weeks in August 2010, saying his accuser lied.
“Absolutely, positively not,” Roderick Knox told his attorney, Stephen Funk, when asked about the allegations. “I do not touch babies. Never. I treated her like I treat my daughters.”
Knox, 47, is on trial on charges of aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual contact for allegedly having sex with the girl four times. He has been suspended from the Fire Department without pay for more than a year.
Testimony and arguments concluded Tuesday, and the jury will begin deliberations Wednesday on the 13 charges.
Knox on Tuesday told the jury it was the girl who crossed a line, saying she told him she was sexually attracted to him. Knox testified that he immediately told the girl that was inappropriate and he would notify her caseworker.
“I was appalled, stunned, shocked that a little girl would say such a thing,” Knox said as he was being cross-examined by Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer. Knox said he believed he had set boundaries with the girl.
“This is a little girl and she’s saying this to me,” Knox said.
Knox and his wife, Nicola Marie Knox, both said they were concerned when the girl told Knox she was sexually attracted to him.
Roderick Knox added the girl told him and his family she was a good actress and could make herself cry. “She said she’s very intelligent — she knows the system,” he said. “She told me she was a good liar and had lied before.”
Knox was unaware of the girl’s past behavioral problems until she was already living with them, he told the jury. While he said he had extensive foster parent training, he said he was not equipped to handle children with serious emotional or mental-health issues.
“Had I known her history,” Knox said, “she wouldn’t have been in my house.”
Knox testified the girl allegedly told him she was sexually attracted to him on Aug. 21, 2010. He said his wife wanted the girl out of the house. The couple tried to contact the girl’s case manager, Knox said, but she was out of town and did not respond to three messages and at least eight phone calls.
Flammer questioned Knox’s response and his written documentation, highlighting days where notes were not kept and other reports that stated the girl had no behavioral problems and was getting along well with the family.
As Flammer read one page of the documentation, Knox asked him to continue, saying, “I wrote more,” but Flammer stopped.
“Did you write anywhere in here that ‘Client said, “I’m sexually attracted and my wife wants her out of the house?”’” Flammer asked.
“No, I did not,” Knox said.
Knox said he and his wife decided the event was not an emergency and although they were reaching out to case managers, they also sought to re-establish boundaries.
When Nicola Marie Knox testified, she said that Sept. 1, 2010, was “the day (the girl) told me she was having sex with my husband.”
She said she didn’t believe the girl’s accusations, because the teen already had expressed inappropriate feelings for the man.
“You believed her,” Flammer said during cross-examination. “You comforted her.”
“As a matter of fact, I told her she was a liar,” Nicola Knox said.
The woman — also an Atlantic City firefighter — testified she never heard nor saw anything indicating an inappropriate relationship, even though she was home during some of the days the girl alleged she had sex. Could Nicola Marie Knox have been unaware?
“Absolutely not,” she said. “Not unless I was brain-dead or oblivious to the whole situation, which you can see I’m neither of those.”
Knox confirmed that when her husband told her that the girl expressed inappropriate feelings for him on Aug. 21, 2010, she wanted the girl out of the house. The Knoxes instead decided to contact the girl’s caseworker, and Nicola Marie Knox warned her husband not to be alone with the girl.
There were two other times the man and teen traveled alone.
In a taped statement the woman gave investigators, she said a family friend’s birthday party “was the only day I allowed my husband to take her out.”
“That wasn’t true, was it?” Flammer asked.
The two also went to a luau sponsored by Helping Hands, the organization that placed the girl.
It was a mandatory meeting, the woman replied. And she was at work.
In his closing statements, defense attorney Funk attacked the girl’s story as implausible. “I submit to you now … that the state’s case was an abuse of logic.”
He highlighted what he considered to be holes in the prosecution’s case regarding where the girl said she was taken to have sex, the lack of DNA evidence from where they allegedly had sex, Knox’s character witnesses and the girl’s acknowledgement of behavioral problems.
“So you decide who to believe,” Funk said in his 42-minute closing. “The troubled girl institutionalized with behavior problems including dishonesty, or everyone else involved in the case.”
In his closing statements, Flammer described the case as an abuse of trust and characterized Knox as having “the facade of being a good, caring foster parent.”
“She’s not lying,” Flammer repeatedly said, pointing to DNA evidence taken from her breast that the defense had said came as a result of a sneeze. He described the other alleged encounters as “stolen moments” and said the girl was courageous to come forward.
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