McKnight on Probation, Assigned Community Service

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McKnight was charged with one count of assault and one count of sexual offense on May 14, 2013

Professor Clifton A. McKnight, accused of 2nd-degree assault, stood before Judge Audrey A. Creighton on the morning of Monday, Feb. 24 at the Rockville District Court of Maryland. He pleaded guilty to this charge, admitting to physical contact.

McKnight teaches Career Development and Study Habits and is a counselor at Montgomery College. According to Montgomery College counselor Linda Robinson’s testimony, McKnight has been a faculty member at the school for over 15 years. He has also published a book, and given motivational lectures.

According to the state attorney, on May 14, 2013 Keeta Coleman, 21, a student at Montgomery College, visited McKnight’s office for an unscheduled appointment. At the end of the meeting, she felt uncomfortable as he hugged her and forced her hand to his genital area.  On May21, 2013, Coleman reported the incident to the Office of Equity and Diversity at MC. Since the victim claims this contact to be unwanted, she is protected under the law, no matter his intentions.

The defense claims that the meeting was mutually agreed upon, and the two had met and talked about school as well as Coleman’s personal life on a previous occasion. When the meeting was over, McKnight went for a hug and Coleman did not object, but he felt apprehension from her and withdrew.

Coleman chose not to appear in court.

The defense lawyer, Robinson Rowe, brought three witnesses to corroborate McKnight’s character, in order to contrast the allegations and prove them unfit. Robinson and fellow MC Counselor Gus Griffin testified along with McKnight’s sister-in-law. All of the witnesses, as well as Rowe described McKnight as “a big teddy-bear”, often mentioning that he was someone people turned to for help and support.

McKnight’s colleague, Linda Robinson, in her testimony said McKnight “is the most kind, compassionate, loving human being that I know.”  This case and its ramifications makes her concerned about her future interactions and relationships with her students. “I’m frightened” she said.

Judge Creighton deliberated over the evidence, striking the finding of guilt and giving McKnight the benefit of probation before judgement. Probation before judgement states that McKnight is on general probation for three years, beginning Feb 24. If his record is clean after that period, said case can be expunged from his record.

McKnight said he was “extremely disappointed” that any interaction with him could be taken as negative. “If people voice concerns, I aim to correct communication immediately.”

In addition, McKnight is required to complete 40 hours of community service and is banned from any physical contact with students at MC or any other school, with the exception of family members. He must also pay a fine of $250 plus court fees, as well as the monthly parole fee of $50.