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Civil Jury Finds SUNY Old Westbury Professor at Fault in Rape Lawsuit

Professor William A. Knack, PhD/Lohud.com

 

On March 17, 2017, a Westchester civil jury found Dr. William A. Knack, an associate professor of psychology at SUNY Old Westbury, guilty of rape. Noelle Feldman, 58, of Pound Ridge, had accused the 65-year-old psychologist of sexual assault at his home-office in 2013. According to the verdict in the State Supreme Court in Westchester, Dr. Knack committed rape “by engaging in sexual intercourse with the plaintiff by forcible compulsion.”

Deciding in favor of Ms. Feldman, the jury awarded her $950,000 in damages.

Dr. Knack has filed for bankruptcy protection for just over $1 million in debt.

Ms. Feldman alerted the New Castle Police in early 2014. The police report stated that the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Dr. Knack because “there was a problem with the case since Ms. Feldman was still seeing Knack as a patient after the date of the above [alleged] rape.” Her civil lawsuit was filed on November 14, 2014.

At the civil trial before Judge Terry Jane Ruderman, the jury heard testimony from both sides as well as two recordings of telephone calls from Ms. Feldman to Dr. Knack that were controlled by the New Castle Police.

“I developed feelings for you,” said Dr. Knack during one call. “I let myself act on those feelings… I mean, my judgment was wrong.”

Dr. Knack claimed during his testimony that he did not rape Ms. Feldman but that she had sexually assaulted him in 2013. “Out of nowhere the patient threw herself on top of me pushing me down on my back on the couch,” Dr. Knack testified, according to the court transcript.

Following the verdict, Dr. Knack filed an appeal of the decision with Judge Ruderman. In denying the appeal, which was issued in July, the judge stated that Dr. Knack “made statements during their second controlled call from which the jury could infer that he was acknowledging that he had physically done something to plaintiff that he should not have done.”

Ms. Feldman’s attorney, John Hannigan, commented, “I think the judge’s opinion in the appeal says a lot.”

Dr. Knack also filed an appeal with the with the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Second Department. The appeal is ongoing.

Dr. Knack declined to answer questions from The Catalyst but provided a statement:

“I am writing this brief statement as opposed to giving an interview because my attorneys have advised me against discussing the case.  This case is not over.  The litigation is ongoing.  My attorney previously filed an appeal from the denial of my motion for summary judgment with the expectation that the entire case will be dismissed.  This appeal has not yet been heard.  A second appeal related to other matters in the case will likely be filed by January 2, 2018.  Until these appeals are heard and decided upon this remains an active case.

“I understand how concerning it can be to hear such a horrible accusation made against a professor.  In my 18 years with the College I have not had one complaint of inappropriate conduct made against me.  This accusation that you are asking me about was not concerning my work at the College.  It had to do with my work with a patient in my private practice.  The complaint was made approximately four years ago about something she said happened five years ago.

“My wife and I are married 28 years.  We are feminists and have raised two successful professional daughters. I have always supported women’s rights.  This accusation has hurt me and my family deeply.  I have repeatedly maintained, and continue to maintain, that the alleged incident did not occur.  The police investigated the allegation.  I was not arrested. I was not charged with a crime. I was not prosecuted for a crime and I was not convicted of a crime.  I have spent my 35-year career as a psychologist and a professor helping people and training other professionals to help people.  Being of service to others has always been one of my core values.  I am eager for the day to come that I can sit down with you and tell you the whole story of this matter.  However, for now, this is all that I can share under the advice of legal counsel.”

William Kimmins, assistant to the president for administration, provided The Catalyst with a statement:

“SUNY Old Westbury takes very seriously all allegations of sexual assault. At the same time, we recognize the right of individuals to due process. Dr. Knack informed College officials of his situation when allegations arose regarding an incident between him and a client of his private practice. The College conducted an investigation at that time and, to date, no criminal charges have been prosecuted. The College is aware that a judgment in a civil case has since been awarded against Dr. Knack, but also that legal actions related to that judgment continue as Dr. Knack seeks to exonerate himself. As a valued member of the faculty for more than 15 years, and with no additional evidence or allegation to suggest that members of the campus community are at risk, Dr. Knack continues to teach at Old Westbury while these matters take their course. The College reserves its right to future action should the final disposition of this situation warrant.”

Dr. Knack, who was the chairman of the psychology department until he stepped down in June, teaches three courses this semester at SUNY Old Westbury, according to the school website.

Below are links to documents related to the Feldman v. Knack lawsuit:

Complaint
Feldman Deposition
Knack Deposition 1
Knack Deposition 2
Police Report
Audio Transcript 1
Audio Transcript 2
Feldman email to Knack
Knack’s patient notes on Feldman
Trial Transcript 1
Trial Transcript 2
Trial Transcript 3
Trial Transcript 4
Verdict
Judge Ruderman’s Appeal Decision
Order to Show, Appellate Division, Second Department
Knack’s Bankruptcy Filing