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April 16, 2013

Coach charged for alleged sex with student

By Brian Louwers and Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writers

WARREN — A Warren Woods-Tower High School coach is facing felony charges for an alleged sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.

Derek Michael Knoll, 24, of Warren, was arraigned before Judge Jennifer Faunce in the 37th District Court April 16 on two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, each a 15-year felony.

According to Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso, the allegations involve an alleged sexual relationship between Knoll and a 16-year-old girl enrolled at Warren Woods-Tower. Galasso said police were alerted after an acquaintance of the girl contacted a staff member at the school. Police later spoke to the girl and her mother.

“The victim gave full disclosure regarding the relationship and we began an investigation,” Galasso said. “Upon calling Mr. Knoll in he was very forthcoming and very cooperative.”

Investigators alleged Knoll and the girl engaged in sexual encounters at two locations in Warren in December 2012.

Police said Knoll, a former student at Warren Woods-Tower, began working as a volunteer coach in 2007 and was hired as a paid coach in 2011. He reportedly coached freshmen boys basketball and was an assistant varsity football coach.

Galasso said Knoll had no criminal record prior to his arrest.

“There is no indication this guy is a predator or anything like that. We certainly believe he exercised extremely poor judgment,” Galasso said. “The law clearly precludes people in his capacity engaging in the type of inappropriate relationship he had with this student, regardless of it being consensual.”

According to state law, third-degree criminal sexual conduct applies to various types of cases, including those involving allegations of sexual activity with minors who are at least 13 years old but less than 16. The statute also covers alleged sexual activity between minors who are 16 years old but less than 18 and someone who is a teacher, administrator, volunteer or contractual service provider.

In a prepared statement, Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Smith said the law places faculty members in a heightened position of trust.

“Parents and students alike need to be able to rely on a faculty-student relationship based on integrity and restraint,” Smith said in the release.

Knoll was reportedly released from police custody after posting a $25,000 bond set by the judge at his arraignment. He was also ordered to wear a GPS tether when released and instructed him to refrain from contacting the alleged victim or anyone under 18.

Knoll was scheduled to be back in Faunce’s courtroom for a preliminary examination at 8:45 a.m. April 30. His defense attorney, Michael Dennis, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The investigation into alleged sexual misconduct involving a student in the Warren Woods Public Schools district was the second in two weeks to result in criminal charges.

Retired Warren police officer Dale Malesh, 62, of Roseville, was arraigned April 12 on two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct after police investigated an alleged sexual relationship between Malesh and a 16-year-old student at Warren Woods-Tower.

Malesh spent 11 years as a resource officer at the school prior to his retirement in January 2011. He was later hired as a building security contractor and worked there through the 2011-2012 school year.

Phone calls made to Warren Woods Public Schools Superintendent Stacey Denewith-Fici’s office April 16 about Knoll were referred to the Warren Police Department. A letter from Denewith-Fici addressing parents, staff and community members regarding Knoll was posted on the district’s website April 16.

The letter stated that as an investigation into the accusations involving Malesh developed, “potential allegations emerged regarding a second inappropriate relationship between a friend of the first involved student and a contracted boys’ basketball coach.”

According to the letter, the student’s parents were notified as soon as school officials learned of the alleged relationship between Knoll and the student. School officials also reportedly asked the contracting agency through which the basketball coach was hired to withdraw the coach from his position.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.