Ex-teacher gets 60 days in jail

Former teacher Christopher Knehans, right, listens with his attorney Scott Hamblin, left, as Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green orders him to begin serving a 60-day sentence immediately.

Former teacher Christopher Knehans, right, listens with his attorney Scott Hamblin, left, as Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green orders him to begin serving a 60-day sentence immediately. Photo by Julie Smith.

When Christopher Knehans pleaded guilty last September to two identical counts of sexual contact with a student, he agreed to spend at least 30 days in jail.

His attorney, Scott Hamblin, asked Judge Dan Green Wednesday to impose a 30-day sentence.

But Green ordered the maximum 60 days allowed by the plea agreement, beginning immediately for Knehans.

The sentence was for the second count of the Cole County grand jury’s October 2011 indictment.

However, the plea agreement gave Green latitude to impose any sentence on the first count, up to the maximum four years in prison state law allows for convictions of a Class D felony.

Green agreed with Hamblin to suspend the imposition of any sentence (SIS), and order Knehans to serve three years supervised probation after he is released from the jail.

Hamblin told Green the suspended sentence was warranted, because “both Mr. Knehans and his family have been severely punished through this process, the collateral consequences as a result of his entering a guilty plea.”

Knehans, now 39, was a band teacher at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School and at Jefferson City High School.

He was charged under a 2005 law creating the “crime of sexual contact with a student” for teachers, student teachers, school employees and volunteers, public school district elected or appointed officials or a person working for a contractor with a public school district.

The grand jury indictment said the crimes occurred on two different dates in September 2011, and involved touching breasts and genitals.

Hamblin reminded Green that the Probation and Parole division’s sentencing advisory report showed Knehans initially rejected advances by the student, identified only as “K.S.,” who “had been pursuing Mr. Knehans for approximately a year to two years.”

He added Knehans will be forced to register as a sexual offender even though the student was 17 at the time, the sexual contact was entirely consensual and there was no sexual intercourse.

Hamblin did not note that Knehans was 20 years older than the student — who was in the courtroom but didn’t say anything either during or after the eight-minute hearing.

He told Green Knehans’ family was “forced to sell their home” after Knehans resigned from his teaching job last March, surrendered his teaching license and had that license revoked permanently by the state Board of Education.

“His wife has left him and is planning to file for a divorce,” Hamblin added. “This has been a difficult time for Mr. Knehans, during the separation from his wife and his children.

“He is living with his parents and is currently performing some menial labor.”

A group called “Grandparents and Others on Watch,” or “GrOW,” has been following the Knehans case because it involved a teacher having sexual contact with a student, spokesman Dan William Peek of Columbia explained.

Peek said they’re concerned that the SIS sentence “means is that if Mr. Knehans succeeds in not getting caught violating the three year probation, the court record can and almost certainly will, be sealed. It will completely disappear from public view; those who may place Mr. Knehans in a position of trust — prospective employers, for example — will not learn of the conviction or of the sex offense unless they check the (sex offender) registry.”

But, Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson said, since there was a specific sentence on the second charge, “The sentence on Count II is and always will be a public felony conviction.”

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