Former coach gets 18 months

Judge compares Lordstown coach to Larry Nassar

Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith Defense attorney Miriam Ocasio, left, discusses a probable prison sentence with her client, Richard Knox, a former volleyball coach in Lordstown. Knox was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison for having sexual contact with two students. He also was labeled a Tier 2 sexual offender.

WARREN — Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Rice compared former Lordstown volleyball coach Richard Knox to infamous gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was recently sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for sexually assaulting hundreds of his patients.

Knox, 45, 2719 Virginia Drive, was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty in September to two counts each of importuning, pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor and gross sexual imposition, all felonies. Rice also labeled Knox a Tier 2 sexual offender, meaning he will have to register his address with the county sheriff’s department every six months for 25 years.

Lordstown police conducted a six-month investigation that began in March 2017, when the parents of one of the teen victims reported what Knox had been doing, according to Lordstown Police Det. Chris Bordonaro. It was during the investigation of one victim that a second victim was found.

“Fortunately, due to the strength of these two young girls, future unsuspecting victims have been spared,” Rice said during the sentencing hearing. “Mr. Knox, because of their bravery, your abuse stops here.”

The mother of one of the victims said during a victim’s impact statement that her family was shocked when they learned someone was harassing their daughter.

“We were sure that someone had hacked Mr. Knox’s account,” she said. “When we found out it was Mr. Knox, we were in complete shock, as he had been coaching our daughter since elementary.”

“We were fortunate that we caught this early, but yet we still have a sense of survivor’s guilt as there was still another victim that wasn’t so lucky,” she said.

Reading a statement from the mother of a second victim, Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Gabriel Wildman said the sentence given to Knox should be harsher than the lifetime of doubt and pain that was given to her daughter.

“You prey on young girls,” Wildman read from the victim impact statement. “You have ruined your own daughters’ lives in many ways.”

She said Knox’s actions have put a dark cloud over something that his teenage victim loves.

“She excels at volleyball,” Wildman read. “Your sickness will always be connected to her volleyball participation.”

Rice described Knox taking away the innocence of the two young girls to gratify his perverse sexual needs.

“This court finds it offensive that you used the avenues of social media, particularly Facebook, to stalk these young ladies, such a manipulative means to foster your illicit intentions,” Rice said. “It is further inconceivable that you have the audacity to blame the victims and the police for your own perverted criminal behavior.”

Knox told members of Trumbull County Adult Probation Department that one of the victims “liked being touched that way,” and that “Touching the minor child was a way to help her.”

Knox apologized to the court, saying that except during the period between August and October 2016, when the incidents took place, he had led a life of service.

Except during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Rice said Knox failed to acknowledge any impact his actions may have had on the victims.

“You knew you were wrong,” Rice said. “You knew you were using your position to groom those young girls. You knew you were sexually assaulting those young girls. You unmistakably knew it was wrong.”

Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong said the district was notified of the allegations against Knox by village police in May 2017, after the volleyball season was completed. Knox, like all other coaches, had been non-renewed during the April Lordstown Board of Education meeting. He coached for three years.

The Ohio Department of Education also was notified of the police investigation. As a result of ODE’s investigation, Knox is no longer permitted to coach anywhere in Ohio.