Crime & Courts

Retired Air Force lieutenant colonel headed to prison on child-porn conviction

A retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel will not be released from prison until he’s in his 90s after he was sentenced on child pornography charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Appearing Thursday at federal court in Asheville, North Carolina, Paul Delavan Knoke was sentenced on the multiple charges to which he had pleaded guilty, U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray said in a news release.

The 77-year-old Asheville resident was sentenced to 180 months (15 years) in prison, and there is no parole in a federal sentence, according to the news release.

“For decades, Knoke inflicted horrific and sustained sexual abuse upon innocent children entrusted in his care,” Murray said in the release. “When Knoke wasn’t physically abusing children, he was turning to a digital screen to view and share child pornography. As result of the 15-year sentenced imposed today, there will be one less sexual predator among us.”

Should Knoke be released from prison when he is 92, he will then face supervised release for the rest of his life as a registered sex offender, according to the news release.

An investigation showed that the retired Air Force veteran “possessed an extensive collection of sexually explicit images of minor males which he had shared with other offenders,” according to the news release. This discovery was made after law enforcement learned Knoke was watching child porn online, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In August 2018, Knoke pleaded guilty to five counts of receipt of child pornography, three counts of distribution of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography, according to the news release.

He was only convicted on the child pornography charges, but the U.S. attorney said in the release that Knoke confessed to sexually abusing “at least eight minors entrusted in his care at various times for more than three decades,” which investigators estimated was more than “1,500 contact offenses against the children in his care.”

“No one expects a lieutenant colonel to be a sexual predator, but in child exploitation cases, we continually see individuals in positions of trust prey on innocent children,” Acting Special Agent in Charge John Eisert said in the news release.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.