Exonerated N.J. Captain Ready to Collect Back Pay

April 9, 2013
Capt. Roderick Knox has been acquitted of charges, and now stands to collect a quarter-million dollars in back pay.

April 09--An Atlantic City fire captain suspended more than two years while he went through two criminal trials is set to get nearly a quarter-million dollars in back pay following his second acquittal.

Roderick Knox, 47, could be awarded even more money as there is possible litigation in as many as three civil lawsuits, including a suit that has not yet been filed that would claim the criminal charges never would have come if the Division of Child Protection and Permanency had disclosed certain information about the alleged victim it placed in Knox's home for foster care.

Knox, who lives in Egg Harbor Township, was suspended without pay in February 2011, after he was arrested at Fire Station 5 on charges he sexually assaulted two teenage girls 15 years apart. He was acquitted last year of having sex with his then-15-year-old foster daughter in 2010. Then, in February, a jury found him not guilty of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1995. That alleged victim -- now 30 -- was found during the investigation into the newer case.

Now that Knox has been reinstated as a fire captain, City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday to pay him the $248,538 he is owed for the time he was out of work. That includes the $115,901 annual salary he was making as a captain, and his 2012 salary, which brought a 4 percent raise for firefighters.

"The city has acknowledged they owe him the back pay, that just needs to go through council," said Stephen Funk, Knox's attorney in both criminal trials. "He's officially back on the job but took some time off to be with his family."

The money does not add to the city's expenses, as Knox's salary was already accounted for in the budget, according to Michael Stinson, director of Revenue and Finance

But that total is "a little light," said Sebastian Ionno, who is representing Knox in at least one civil case. "But we'll take that up in the city suit.

That suit alleging racial discrimination in the city's Fire Department was pending when Knox was charged in 2011. It originally named Fire Chief Dennis Brooks and now-retired Deputy Chief Robert Palamaro, but both have been dropped as defendants, with only the city named, Ionno said.

The two, however, could be ordered to give depositions and possibly testify at trial.

The suit alleges Knox was discriminated against because he is black, and then received disciplinary charges in retaliation for those complaints. Those disciplinary claims -- which include charges that Knox falsified documents -- are pending before the Office of Administrative Law, Ionno said. No monetary claim has yet been made in the suit.

"We are in initial discussions about possibly going to mediation (in that case)," Ionno said.

Ionno said he also plans to file a suit against the Division of Child Protection and Permanency -- formerly DYFS -- for withholding information he claims could have avoided the criminal charges.

Knox was originally accused of having sex with the foster daughter the division placed with his family. But Ionno says the girl's history should have been disclosed, and showed she "should not have been placed in a home with a man."

A tort claim was also filed on Knox's behalf warning that he could sue the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office. A tort claim is not a lawsuit, and only warns that one could be filed. That claim is not being handled by Ionno, and details were not immediately available.

But, in a letter Knox gave to a Press of Atlantic City reporter right after the jury verdict in February, he claimed that the investigator in the case was "hell bent on convicting me, an innocent man, for personal reasons I believe are associated with the Fire Department, who I have a lawsuit against."

He alleged that the department's "vendetta" included failure to respond to a records request he made that would have aided his defense. Knox said he was told those records didn't exist, but that the state was given documents from the same time period.

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Copyright 2013 - The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.

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