Sex offender sentenced to 13 years

LISBON — A former Hanoverton man, who reportedly had a long-term sexual relationship with a teenage girl starting when she was at least as young as 13 years old, was sentenced on Thursday to 13 years in prison.

Donny W. Knight, 44, pleaded guilty in May to five counts of rape in the case, all first-degree felonies. If the he had been sentenced to the maximum on the charges — and those sentences had run consecutively — he could have faced 55 years. Judge Scott Washam pointed out he felt the recommendation by Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol for a 13-year sentence was fair, also noting McNicol was willing to dismiss five counts of sexual battery, which involved the same girl.

Knight’s sexual activity with the girl is believed to have started in August 2013 and continued until June 2016, although Washam noted there was some indication it could have even started earlier.

McNicol pointed out the fact that Knight was someone who was a father figure in the girl’s life — in addition to her young age — has undoubtedly caused not only physical injury, but also psychological harm to the girl.

Knight, wiping away tears as he spoke before sentencing, said if the girl and her family were there he would have apologized to them.

“I’m truly sorry,” Knight said. “I would like to tell her I’m sorry, and I would like her to forgive me.”

His defense attorney, Terry Grenga, said she knows Knight is remorseful and has cooperated in the case. She asked for a seven-year sentence instead, noting all the charges involved the same victim. Additionally, she said as a Tier III sexual offender Knight will have to register every 90 days for the rest of his life, continuously letting people know about his status as a sexual predator.

Knight, who has been incarcerated in the Columbiana County Jail since his indictment, has a credit for 402 days already served. Knight also asked Washam about what happens if he decides to leave the state after he gets out of prison. Washam said he believes his sexual offender notification requirement follows him where ever he chooses to go, and he believed Knight’s probation officer will be better able to explain it in the future. Even once he is released, Knight will be on probation for up to five years.