Prison ordered in lewd case

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SANDPOINT — A young Bonner County man was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison on Tuesday for lewd conduct against a 13-year-old whose extraordinary bravery exposed him as sexual abuser.

Jacob Steven McKnight, 19, will have to serve three years of the term before he can be considered for release onto parole, according to the sentence imposed by 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan.

McKnight was charged with one count of rape and two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct for sexually abusing the teen in 2016, although there was universal agreement that he had violently and repeatedly abused the girl for years.

McKnight pleaded to one count of lewd conduct in an agreement with the state.

Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Nick Lapire called two witnesses — McKnight’s father and the mother of the victim — who testified they were troubled by McKnight’s ability to project himself as a well-adjusted young man while secretly subjecting the teen to violent abuse over an extended period of time.

“I am concerned about the duplicity,” McKnight’s father told the court.

The victim brought the abuse to an end by reporting McKnight to authorities, even though she believed she was putting herself in danger by exposing him.

“I’m still scared right now that he will hurt me,” she said.

The teen told the court that she wanted to make sure McKnight could not prey on anybody else and recounted how she once locked herself away in a room and hid in the upper shelf of a closet. McKnight, however, defeated the lock and found her.

Lapire recommended a five- to 10-year term because McKnight is two times more likely to re-offend. McKnight also portrayed himself as the victim in a presentence investigation conducted by the Idaho Department of Correction.

“It is not safe to leave him in the community,” said Lapire.

Chief Public Defender Susie Jensen argued for a two- to five-year sentence retained jurisdiction, which could qualify McKnight for probation after serving up to a year in prison. Jensen said her client would have better access to sex offender treatment than he would in prison and saw nothing to be gained forcing him to grow up in the general population of an Idaho prison.

“We would ask the court to give him a chance,” Jensen said.

McKnight did not dispute that there was something wrong with him.

“Something needs to be repaired. I don’t know how that has to come about, but that is what I want. I do want to be a caring and capable member of society,” he said.

Weighing in McKnight’s favor were his age and his lack of a prior criminal record, Buchanan said.

“But there are a number of other factors that weigh in favor of incarceration in this case,” she said.

Those factors included the “incalculable harm” he subjected the teen to, which was a form of torture, Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the repetitive nature of his misconduct and his above-average risk of re-offending also factored into the sentence. She further ruled that a lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the offense.

“A lack of empathy is concerning,” Buchanan added.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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