NEW BRAUNFELS — A Comal County judge on Monday gave a woman probation instead of a possible two-year state jail term in her case of tampering with a witness and endangering a child.
Judge Gary L. Steel sentenced Nancy Carolyn Knowles, 38, of New Braunfels, to 75 days in Comal County Jail, and ordered that as long as Knowles continues working her job at The Scooter Store, she can serve the time on weekends only.
“I saved her from prison,” Knowles’ defense attorney Ted Wood said outside the court after the punishment hearing Monday afternoon.
A jury took a little more than two hours Nov. 15 to return guilty verdicts against Knowles. The convictions on both counts — both state jail felonies — meant Knowles was facing up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Knowles’ husband and the girl’s foster father, Kenneth Knowles, 59, pleaded guilty in February to aggravated sexual assault of the girl, then 8, and was sentenced to more than 45 years in a Texas prison.
During the two-day trial, prosecutors played an audio tape Nancy Knowles and her husband recorded a day after the girl told her foster mother that Kenneth Knowles molested her. The tape, which Nancy Knowles gave investigators, lasted longer than an hour as Kenneth Knowles accused the girl of lying.
Kenneth Knowles is also heard on the tape threatening to send the girl away and not adopt her if she refused to recant her allegations against him.
Sammy McCrary, Comal County chief prosecutor, said he thought Nancy Knowles deserved a stiffer sentence.
“I think it’s wholly inadequate for what she did to that little girl,” McCrary said. “I would like to see her in prison as long as Kenneth Knowles.”
During Monday’s hearing, McCrary characterized the couple’s’ treatment of the girl as torture. He said what the adults did to the girl was similar to waterboarding of terrorists, treatment many people debate is not humane.
“I can’t believe anybody would say that’s right for an 8-year-old girl,” McCrary said.
Criminal district attorney Jennifer Tharp, who helped McCrary prosecute, said during closing statements that Nancy Knowles still hasn’t owned up to what she’s done. Knowles minimizes and justifies her own involvement, Tharp said.
Tharp said she would have liked to have requested a life sentence for Knowles but the guidelines prevent that.
“The maximum of two years I do not think is appropriate,” Tharp said.
Steel evidently agreed the maximum was inappropriate.
He ordered Knowles, along with the 75-day county jail sentence, to serve five years probation and pay a $5,000 fine.
Outside the courtroom, Wood said the prosecution had offered his client jail time when, in his opinion, her clean criminal record suggested she serve probation.
“This case did not have to go this far,” Wood said. “This is an example of what happens when the prosecution overreaches. For somebody charged with a state jail felony with no criminal history, it’s almost unheard of to offer jail time.”