Knopps guilty of sexual misconduct
A 49-year-old Winnebago man will be spending time behind bars for sexual misconduct with a child his wife was baby sitting at their home.
On Monday, Steven Knopps pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct during a plea hearing in Faribault County District Court.
Under the agreement, Knopps will receive a prison term of 58 months. He will have to serve at least two-thirds of the sentence.
While family members of the victim are pleased Knopps will be spending time in prison, it isn’t long enough, they say.
“We wished with our hearts it could have been more. It got to the point where it was dragging on. It was so hard on all of us,” says the victim’s grandmother.
Their feelings may be understandable, considering this is not the first time Knopps has been convicted of a sex crime.
At the start of the case, the grandmother says, a court official told the family that Knopps did time in prison for a sexual misconduct conviction in the 1980s.
Shari Burt of the Minnesota Department of Corrections says records show Knopps was sent to prison in 1983 for a sex offense against a child/fondling, while living in Kandiyohi County. She says he was sentenced for 60 months and was released from DOC authority on Oct. 30, 1988.
In February, Knopps was originally charged with a serious felony of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child under age 13. He faced a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine, if convicted.
“The family wanted it over with and they accepted the number of months he’ll spend in prison,” says County Attorney Brian Roverud.
The charge stems from an incident that occurred at the Knopps’ home in February, says a court complaint.
At the hearing Knopps admitted to having sexual contact with the child — who was 7 years old — in the bathroom of the house where his wife was baby sitting.
“She had a daycare in their home. That makes me sick,” says the grandmother. “There was a sex offender living in the community, next to someone. And, we weren’t even aware of it.”
Winnebago Police Chief Bob Toland says Knopps’ wife was operating an unlicensed daycare out of their home.
Burt says a law requiring sex offenders to register with local authorities once they are released was not in effect in 1988.
“Registration didn’t start until 1991 and doing risk level assessments began in 1997,” says Burt.
Knopps’ attorney, public defender Bill Grogin, says a pre-sentence investigation must still be completed.
“The judge will determine the length of supervisory probation and the amount of the fine and restitution, if there is any,” says Grogin.
Knopps remains in custody in the Faribault County Jail on $100,000 bail.