Const. Stephen Knaack sat silently in court Jan. 30 as lawyers argued over an appropriate sentence. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse RCMP officer who sexually assaulted colleague to be sentenced in February

Const. Stephen Knaack was in court Jan. 30 as the Crown and defence presented sentencing submissions

A former Whitehorse RCMP officer who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female colleague in 2017 was back in court Jan. 30 as the Crown and defence delivered their submissions for how severely he should be punished.

Const. Stephen Knaack sat silently as Crown attorney Benjamin Flight and defence lawyer Brendan Miller argued whether the one-time corporal should be given a suspended sentence and probation, which would leave him with a criminal record, or a conditional discharge.

Knaack has admitted to inappropriately touching a woman while on-duty and in uniform on Jan. 4, 2017. According to the agreed statement of facts, the woman was at work and seated at her desk when Knaack came in. After exchanging holiday greetings, Knaack reached down to give her a hug and she stated, “Let me stand up so I can give you a real hug.” Knaack said that she was standing up so he could “grab [her] ass” and, when hugging her, grabbed her buttocks with his left hand. The woman said that there was “lots to grab” and Knaack replied, “I like big women.”

“(The woman) did not consent to Cst. Knaack touching her buttocks,” the statement says.

The woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, filed a complaint against Knaack the next day. He was suspended from duty, charged with sexual assault, demoted from a corporal to a constable and unsuccessfully offered to settle the matter with a peace bond before pleading guilty in November 2017.

In arguing for a suspended sentence, Flight read from the woman’s one-page victim impact statement, in which she detailed how the sexual assault left her feeling “tense,” “awkward,” “isolated” and anxious, particularly at work. Colleagues have told her she shouldn’t have reported the incident, she wrote, and she was followed home one day from work.

As well, the woman wrote that she’s had to take unpaid leave from work to cope and has paid $680 out-of-pocket for therapy related to the impact of the sexual assault.

“I will forever be impacted by this event,” she wrote.

On top of the impact on the victim, Flight said that Knaack’s position as a police officer should be factored into the sentence. Police officers have “higher moral responsibility,” Flight argued, and therefore must be held to a higher standard. Although a conditional discharge may have been appropriate for a civilian, he said, it’s not for a police officer.

Flight acknowledged that Knaack’s pre-sentencing report was “largely positive” and that in it, Knaack expressed remorse. However, Flight expressed concern that Knaack said he thought the incident should have been dealt with via internal process instead of it being used as a “political tool,” suggesting that Knaack thinks he’s “exempt from the application of the law” and can’t appreciate why the matter belongs in court.

Miller, however, argued that Knaack has been punished enough already and that a criminal record would be unfit.

Knaack had no prior criminal history, Miller said, and has already been demoted, lost about $32,000 in docked pay and internal fines, and shown “immense remorse” for his actions.

The Crown itself acknowledged that the sexual assault was on the “lower” end of the spectrum, Miller said, and it would not be in the public interest to “paint him with the same brush” as someone who’s committed a more violent sexual offence.

“It was an impulse act. It was not an offence that was thought out over time…. He quite frankly meant it as a joke and a stupid joke” and a joke that violated the Criminal Code and should have never happened, Miller said.

Throughout his submissions, Miller emphasized the publicity that’s surrounded the case, including the RCMP’s decision to put out a press release on the charge and the heavy media coverage that followed, and the public’s familiarity with the facts.

“This matter has been all over the news,” he said, adding that, based on the victim impact statement, it’s what happened after the offence that appears to have had the greatest impact on the woman.

Judge Richard Scheider reserved his decision, describing the case as “rather nuanced.” He is expected to file a written decision in two weeks.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

RCMPsexual assaultYukon courts

Just Posted

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker plead guilty to offences under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Couple who broke isolation rules to get vaccines in Beaver Creek fined $2,300

Crown and defence agreed on no jail time for Rod and Ekaterina Baker

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 16, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
COVID-19 outbreak surges to 50 active cases in the Yukon

Officials urge Yukoners to continue following guidelines, get vaccinated

Team Yukon during the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse. (Submitted/Sport Yukon)
Whitehorse will bid for 2027 Canada Winter Games

Bid would be submitted in July 2022

File Photo
The overdose crisis, largely driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil was the topic of an online discussion hosted by Blood Ties Four Directions Centre and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition on June 8 and 10.
Discussion of overdose crisis in Yukon leaves participants hopeful for future

The forum brought together people including some with personal drug use and addiction experience.

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

For the second year running, the Yukon Quest will not have 1,000 mile race. Crystal Schick/Yukon News
The Yukon Quest will be two shorter distance events instead of a 1,000 mile race

After receiving musher feeback, the Yukon Quest Joint Board of Directors to hold two shorter distances races instead of going forward with the 1,000 mile distance

Western and Northern premiers met this week to discuss joint issues. (Joe Savikataaq/Twitter)
Premiers meet at Northern Premiers’ Forum and Western Premiers’ Conference

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq virtually hosted both meetings this year

The sun sets over Iqaluit on Oct. 26, 2020. Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle school came from household transmission and the risk to other students is low. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Iqaluit school’s contacts and classmates cleared after two COVID-19 cases

With an outbreak ongoing in Iqaluit, the Aqsarniit middle school has split students into two groups

An extended range impact weapon is a “less lethal” option that fires sponge or silicon-tipped rounds, according to RCMP. (File photo)
Whitehorse RCMP under investigation for use of “less lethal” projectile weapon during arrest

Police used the weapon to subdue a hatchet-wielding woman on June 4

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents.
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015

Teslin Lake is one of two bodies of water the Yukon Government has place on flood watch. (Google Maps Image)
Flood watch issued for Teslin Lake, Yukon River at Carmacks

The bodies of water may soon burst their banks due to melting snow and rainfall

Most Read