Authorities say the music director at a Reedsburg church sexually assaulted an underage parishioner on multiple occasions over a 14-month period.
Sauk County prosecutors on Tuesday charged 48-year-old David J. Knoble of Reedsburg with five felony counts of child sexual assault by a person who works or volunteers with children. He also has been charged with felony exposure of intimate parts.
“I’m not going to make any comments,” Knoble said when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon. “I’m just going to pass on that right now.”
Court documents show that Knoble, who until Tuesday was employed as the director of music ministry with the St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Reedsburg, faced similar charges more than a decade ago while working as a middle school music instructor.
Text messages discovered
According to prosecutors, on Christmas Day, a mother of noticed a text message from Knoble on her 17-year-old daughter’s cell phone that said “I love you.” After speaking with her daughter, the mother reported the matter to the Reedsburg Police Department.
An officer interviewed the girl, who said she knows Knoble through her involvement in the church choir, and also receives private music lessons from him. The girl told an investigator that she is Knoble’s girlfriend, and that they began having sexual contact when she was 16 years old, according to a criminal complaint filed in Sauk County Circuit Court.
“(The girl) said they have never had sexual intercourse because they are both very religious and are waiting,” the complaint states. “She said they have had a conversation about having sex many times but it has never happened yet.”
The complaint says the girl detailed sexual encounters with Knoble that did not rise to the level of intercourse. She told police they had been intimate about 50 times over the last year.
Knoble, who gives private music lessons to about 20 children at his Park Street home in Reedsburg, was later interviewed by police. He told the officer that he gives private music lessons to the alleged victim, and that the girl also works for him about six hours a week as his assistant.
When asked about text messages between himself and the 17-year-old girl, Knoble allegedly told the officer they were not evidence of a romantic relationship.
“Knoble acknowledged that he understood why the parents would be concerned with those messages,” the complaint states. “Knoble said he tells (the girl and her siblings) that he loves them because they are like extended family.”
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In one exchange, the girl allegedly sent Knoble a picture of herself in tight spandex pants, to which Knoble replied that he couldn’t wait to see her in them. When confronted with that information, Knoble again denied wrongdoing, according to the complaint.
“Knoble laughed and said it was a joke between them because (the girl) never wears tight clothes,” the complaint states. “Knoble agreed he could see how that could be inappropriate to say that to her.”
Knoble allegedly admitted to the officer that he cared for the girl, and once told the girl that he “wanted to be with her.” But he denied that the two ever had sexual contact. The officer reported that Knoble ended the interview when asked whether he ever had a conversation with the girl about having sex at some time in the future.
The charges filed Tuesday were not the first time Knoble has been accused of having sexual relations with a student.
In 2004, he was working as a vocal music teacher at Webb Middle School in Reedsburg when he was charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl who he taught.
The girl told authorities that sometime in August of 2003, she had sexual contact with Knoble at his home in Reedsburg. Knoble allegedly kissed and groped the girl.
Court documents show that prosecutors later reduced the felony charge of sexual assault of a child under the age of 16 to a misdemeanor count of fourth degree sexual assault.
The case was resolved when Knoble submitted what’s known as an Alford plea, in which the defendant proclaims he is innocent of the crime but admits the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that he is guilty.
He was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge and ordered to pay a $335 fine, with no jail time.
Resignation follows charges
St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church Senior Pastor David Glesne said Knoble resigned from his paid position with the church Tuesday.
Glesne has been a pastor at the church since 2005, and said he said when he hired Knoble. But he said he was under the impression that the 2004 case was never prosecuted.
A warrant for Knoble’s arrest was issued Tuesday, and no court date has been set. Each of the five child sexual assault charges against him carries a maximum penalty of 6 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.