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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 49-year-old Elk Mound man has been sentenced on two felony counts related to the repeated sexual assault of a child to eight years in prison and four years of extended supervision.
Richie L. Knuth appeared with his attorney, Francis Rivard, for a plea hearing before Judge Rod W. Smeltzer July 15.
Knuth initially was charged with four felonies related to the sexual assault of a child and also was charged with two misdemeanors.
At a court hearing in May, Judge Smeltzer dismissed the two misdemeanors and two of the felonies and accepted Knuth’s plea of “no contest” on the remaining felonies and found Knuth guilty.
Prior to the plea hearing, the Knuth case had been scheduled for a jury trial.
Dunn County Assistant District Attorney Amber Hahn asked Judge Smeltzer to sentence Knuth to 20 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision on each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Hahn said she was asking for 20 years of initial confinement both for the protection of the public and to insure that Knuth receives sex offender treatment and rehabilitation.
Knuth has blamed his drinking and has blamed the victim but does not blame himself, she said.
Since Knuth has not acknowledged the problem, probation is not appropriate because he cannot be rehabilitated in the community, Hahn said.
Knuth’s attorney, Francis Rivard, asked for a number of corrections to the pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report, including that during the time Knuth has been in jail, he has taken 16 classes, and not the 13 listed in the PSI.
Hahn had noted that Knuth should receive credit for 374 days in jail, and at the time of the sentencing hearing, Knuth remained in custody.
Rivard said he disagreed with the conclusions of the PSI and objected to the criminal complaint referring to other alleged incidents that happened 20 years ago.
Knuth was drunk during one of the alleged incidents from years ago and has not had a drink since, Rivard said.
The prosecution has presented an inaccurate and wrong picture of Knuth, he said, adding that Knuth feels remorse and has taken responsibility for his actions.
Rivard said he was not recommending probation but that the state has asked for too many years in prison.
Instead of 20 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision, Rivard recommended three years in prison and seven years of extended supervision.
Knuth has shown a willingness to work on himself by taking the 16 classes while he has been in jail, Rivard said.
While Knuth has some good qualities, the defendant crossed way over the line with the crimes he committed, which the legislature has determined are very serious crimes, Judge Smeltzer said.
As Hahn noted, Knuth was convicted of two Class C felonies that carry a possible penalty of up to 40 years in prison on each count.
Sexual assault of children is “ruinous” for the victims and something they must deal with for the rest of their lives, the judge said.
The sentence must result in resolution for the victim, Judge Smeltzer said.
Knuth will eventually be out in the community again, and as a result of treatment, he must say, “I can’t go down this road again,” because a line was crossed that should have never been crossed, the judge said.
Rehabilitation must be in a confined setting, Judge Smeltzer said.
Rivard’s recommendation was less that what the PSI recommended, and Hahn’s recommendation was more than what the PSI recommended, the judge noted.
In this case, Judge Smeltzer said he believed the PSI was appropriate and sentenced Knuth to eight years of initial confinement and four years of extended supervision on each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Judge Smeltzer also ordered Knuth to pay $518 in court costs, to complete the sex offender assessment and comply with the recommendations, and granted Knuth 374 days of credit for time served.
In addition, Judge Smeltzer ordered Knuth to register as a sex offender and to have no contact with the victim.
Knuth also is on a lifetime prohibition for possessing firearms and cannot vote until his sentence is completed.
Based on a motion Hahn offered, Judge Smeltzer dismissed a separate case in which Knuth was charged with contempt of court.
According to the criminal complaint, Dunn County Investigator Rebecca Mayfield obtained e-mail messages last October in which Knuth had asked the person with whom he was exchanging messages to give a message to the alleged victim.
The complaint notes that when the cash bail was set, Knuth had signed the bond form acknowledging the condition of no contact with the alleged victim.