Professor of Ethnomusicology Roderic Knight has been arrested on charges of public indecency for allegedly exposing himself to two Oberlin College students. Knight turned himself into the Oberlin Police Department on Oct. 15 and was released on $250 bail.
This is not the first time Knight has been arrested for public indecency. On Aug. 28, the Oberlin Police Department arrested Knight for walking naked in Westwood Cemetery. Knight pleaded not guilty to both counts.
Knight issued a statement denying any involvement in the incidents. "I have been wrongly accused of an offensive act on Saturday, Oct. 3, 1998. This act could only have been done by a person with nothing to lose. I have everything to lose. I flatly and emphatically deny the charge that has been leveled against me," said Knight.
On Oct. 3, two College students walking along Morgan Street witnessed a man walking in front of them wearing a hooded sweatshirt and glasses. As the students turned onto Cedar Street from Morgan, they noticed the man in front of them with his pants pulled down. The assailant was within a few feet of the victims as he fondled his genitalia. According to the students, the assailant made no attempt to contact them.
The students first reported the incident to Oberlin College Safety and Security. Since the incident occurred off-campus and required a criminal investigation, the victims were referred to the police. After issuing a description of the assailant the police conducted a photo line-up. The victims identified Knight as the assailant, but police officials did not feel they had enough evidence to warrant Knight's arrest.
Detective David Jasinski said, "They were pretty sure [it was him], but you can't go on pretty sure." Police officials informed the victims that the person they identified was Knight. "They didn't want to believe a professor would do that," said Jasinski.
While the assailant was identified as having facial hair and long hair, the photo of Knight did not. The degree of uncertainty on the part of the victims led the police to continue their investigation rather than arrest Knight.
The students then saw Knight in the Conservatory lounge on Oct. 10, and made a definite identification of him as the assailant. The student informed Detective Jasinski, and a warrant was issued for Knight's arrest for public indecency. Knight turned himself in on Oct. 15. He was arraigned on Oct. 20 and entered a plea of not guilty.
The Oberlin Police department suspected Knight from the physical description given by the victims, as well as from his prior arrest on Aug. 28. Knight was arrested when police responded to complaints of a man walking naked in Westwood Cemetery. The police picked up Knight in the park after the complaintant told the responding officer where the assailant was last seen. When the police stopped Knight, he was wearing running shorts and no shirt. The complaintant identified Knight as the man she saw naked in the cemetery and requested charges be brought against him. Knight pleaded not guilty at his Sept. 1 arraignment.
Both public indecency charges are level four misdemeanors. If convicted, Knight faces up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine for each crime.
Knight's statement also asserted his role in the College community. "I have been a respected and active member of this community for 23 years. I respect my friends and acquaintances, my colleagues and especially the students of Oberlin College. I would never, nor have I ever, behaved in the malicious manner described in this incident. My family and I are devastated by this accusation."
Knight is still employed by Oberlin College and continues to teach classes. A student of Knight's, college senior Kristen Jones, said, "I completely respect him. He's never given me any indication he would do something like that. I hope the charges are untrue."
Another student of Knight's, first-year Hannah Moland, said, "I would certainly be very surprised [if the allegations are true]. He's a good teacher, an intelligent man."
Although Knight has not been convicted, it is still a legitimate concern of whether or not his public perception will affect his ability to teach. College senior Joshua Ritter said, "It's unfortunate that the accusations have been so hyped up. It's like he received a guilty sentence, and he hasn't even gone to court."
Ritter is Knight's advisee, and stood firm in his support of Knight. "He's been one of my best friends. He's been a tireless supporter of what I want to do in my life," said Ritter.
The College has taken no action against Knight. Both the President's office and Dean of the Conservatory's office deferred comment to College Relations. Vice President of College Relations Al Moran said, "We can't do anything and we won't do anything until it's gone through the courts. He's been a valuable member of the college community for over 20 years."
Although both cases might be held at the same time, the Oct. 3 incident will go to pretrial on Nov. 10, while the Aug. 28 offense will be held on Dec. 15.
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 7, October 30, 1998
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