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Hearing delayed for accused Warren Woods-Tower coach

May 3, 2013

WARREN — A hearing to determine whether a Warren Woods-Tower High School coach will stand trial for allegedly having consensual sex with a 16-year-old girl has been adjourned until late May.

Derek Michael Knoll, 24, of Warren, appeared briefly April 30 — backed by family members and his attorney, Michael Dennis — before Judge Jennifer Faunce in the 37th District Court.

Warren police said Knoll’s relationship with the 16-year-old student at Warren Woods-Tower was investigated after an acquaintance of the girl contacted a staff member at the school. Deputy Warren Police Commissioner Louis Galasso said detectives eventually interviewed the  girl and her mother, and that they also spoke to Knoll, who was reportedly “very forthcoming and very cooperative.”

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. However, the statute also covers sexual relationships between minors who are 16 years old but less than 18 and someone who is a teacher, administrator, volunteer or contractual service provider at a school.

A graduate of Warren Woods-Tower, Knoll reportedly began working as a volunteer coach at the school in 2007 and was hired as a paid coach in 2011. He reportedly coached freshmen boy’s basketball and was an assistant varsity football coach.

Knoll has no prior criminal record, and Dennis said his client has “tremendous support” behind him.

“He’s got tremendous support from his family, tremendous support from his friends. We’re still investigating. We’ll be looking at everything,” Dennis said.

Faunce agreed to adjourn the hearing for about a month, while attorneys continue to examine evidence in the case.

Dennis said the statute governing third-degree criminal sexual conduct was changed by the Michigan Legislature in 2010 and that “there are some things that are vague.”

He said the case is different than another ongoing case at Warren Woods-Tower involving Dale Malesh, a 62-year-old retired police officer who worked as a school resource officer and a private contractor at the school through the 2011-12 school year.

Malesh also faces two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for an alleged sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl enrolled at Warren Woods-Tower.

The cases are, however, connected. The girls, who are not being identified, were reportedly acquainted.

“Its genesis was from that case,” Dennis said of the case brought against his client. “We’re not dealing apples-to-apples, in my opinion.”

Knoll remained free on a $25,000 bond. He was ordered to wear a GPS tether and to refrain from contact with minors ahead of his next scheduled court date at 8:45 a.m. May 28.

About the author

Staff Writer Brian Louwers covers the cities of Warren and Center Line. He has worked for C & G Newspapers since 1998 and is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. In his free time, he participates in the Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program and conducts interviews with military veterans for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.

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