Before handing Josh Knapp a 7-year prison sentence on Thursday in a domestic violence case, Montezuma District Court Judge Todd Plewe said he saw Knapp’s potential.
“You have a seed of goodness and greatness inside of you, but you poisoned that seed with alcohol,” he said.
Knapp, 34, was found guilty after a January trial on felony counts of second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury and illegal discharge of a firearm, as well as misdemeanor counts of menacing, criminal mischief, third-degree assault, reckless endangerment and use of a firearm under the influence and harassment.
A March 29, 2016, report from Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brian Harrison alleged that Knapp “continuously assaulted” a 32-year-old woman for hours on the evening of March 28 at her home south of Dolores, while her children also were there.
Knapp was acquitted of stalking, two other counts of third-degree assault, two counts of child abuse and unlawful sexual contact.
The conviction carried a mandatory 5-to-16-year sentence in the Department of Corrections, District Attorney Will Furse said.
Plewe said the maximum, 16-year sentence would be a waste of a life. He said he issued a sentence above the minimum because there were children present during the incident and Knapp used a gun.
The trial took place from Jan. 9-13 in Montezuma District Court with a 13-member jury, including nine women and four men.
More than 50 people filled the courtroom Thursday afternoon for the sentencing hearing, which lasted for about 2½ hours.
Dozens of spectators appeared in support of Knapp and the victim in the case. Five people shared statements in support of Knapp, and three spoke in support of the victim.
Speaking to the judge Thursday, Knapp said alcohol brought out anger and jealousy in him on the night of the incident.
“There is no excuse for my actions,” he said.
He said he has been sober for about a year. He said he had lost time with his family and his construction business as a result of his actions, and he would miss the birth of a son while in prison.
He apologized to the victim, her children and his own family members.
According to the sheriff’s office report, the alleged victim told officers Knapp struck her with a camouflage long gun and a broken towel rod.
She was transported to Southwest Memorial Hospital with pain in her back, legs and ribs, the report states. The house was in disarray when officers responded to the scene, according to the report.
During the trial, Knapp denied hitting, kicking or biting the alleged victim. He said he never hit her with a gun or a towel rod, and he denied unlawful sexual contact.
Knapp at first testified that he broke the alleged victim’s nose, but later said he did not know how it got broken.
He testified that he was upset earlier in the day because he thought the alleged victim was talking to a former boyfriend. He was drinking during the afternoon, and he broke a vase and a glass bottle in the house, according to his testimony.
Plewe told Knapp that alcohol leads to domestic violence, and alcohol is what brought him to court.
The judge said he was moved by statements made by those who supported Knapp. After issuing the sentence, Plewe told the defendant to turn around and face his family members.
“You get out, and you show these people you’re deserving of the love they have for you,” Plewe said.
He said Knapp needed to treat women with respect and could no longer drink alcohol.
In a statement to the court, the victim’s 9-year-old son said Knapp had told him he would grow up to be abusive too. He said Knapp hurt his mother, sister and him.
“He tore our family apart,” the son said.
Brenda Knapp, the defendant’s mother, told the judge she had dealt with the loss of their son Kyle, who was killed in a September 2016 car crash.
“Having lost one son, you can imagine our panic ... at the thought of losing Josh for any length of time,” she said.
Her family needed Knapp’s presence in their lives, she said.
Knapp’s attorney Katie Whitney called for the minimum sentence of five years. She said Knapp had already made it far down the road to recovery, but was frustrated it would not continue while in prison.
“I don’t think he’s going to get any meaningful treatment in prison,” Whitney said.
The defense attorney said it had been an emotional case, but Knapp could come out of it a better person.
Furse asked the judge to impose an 8-year sentence and said probation should be part of the sentence. He said the case represented what domestic violence can result in – not just one or two victims, but a room full of people affected.
“I’m hopeful that Knapp will take time ... and give penitence for what happened,” Furse said.
The prosecutor said he felt sympathy for both families and was optimistic that Knapp would come out of prison able to be a better husband and father. He said it is not common to see a courtroom full of people supporting those involved in a case.
“This should represent closure, a day of healing and moving forward,” he said.