OBERLIN — When he took the stand in his own defense, former Wellington High School vocational teacher Patrick Knoble actually hurt his case, according to the judge who found Knoble guilty on Tuesday.
Knoble gave credence to complaints from fellow school employees whom he told he wanted to cause harm to Wellington Schools Superintendent Victor Cardenzana and school board member Brian Fehlan, Oberlin Municipal Judge Thomas Januzzi ruled.
Januzzi will sentence Knoble after a presentence report is prepared. He faces up to six months in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000.
“We’re asking that he not be given any jail time,” said Shimane Smith, Knoble’s attorney.
Smith said Knoble, 36, who is working as a landscaper, “is at peace with his life right now — this is the happiest he’s been in a long time.”
Smith had argued that Knoble was just venting and he had a Constitutional right to make the statements. But Januzzi said that the 9th District Court of Appeals has recognized that the protection of speech does not protect all speech, or “there would be no valid menacing statute at all.”
“The statements made (by Knoble) were not protected free speech,” Januzzi ruled.
Januzzi’s four-page ruling noted that Knoble admitted “he was extremely angry with the superintendent because the superintendent spearheaded investigations against him.’’
Witnesses, including Cardenzana, testified during a one-day bench trial Monday that Knoble blamed the superintendent for his reassignment from vocational teacher at Wellington High School to lunch and study hall monitor at McCormick Middle School.
“The superintendent was so much in fear that he had trepidation about coming to school in the morning,” Januzzi wrote.
Januzzi also included pertinent testimony presented during the trial, including testimony from one employee who said Knoble told her he had a dream that he had shot Cardenzana and another who said Knoble told her he wanted McCormick Middle School to burn with Cardenzana and Fehlan inside, and that he’d light the match.
Another employee testified that Knoble told her he would get Cardenzana and also showed her a knife with a 5-inch blade.
Cardenzana was unavailable for comment Tuesday and Fehlan declined to comment except to say it was important to report the incidents to authorities.
“With the things happening around this country — with people making threats and acting on them — you have to take any comment seriously,” Fehlan said.
In a separate felony case, Knoble faces trial in December on two counts each of theft and theft in office in connection with charges he failed to account for up to $5,000 he oversaw as adviser to the Wellington High School Future Farmers of America. His teaching license was revoked in March.
Contact Cindy Leise at 653-6250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.