Minnesota state representative Jim Knoblach canceled his re-election campaign on Friday after his daughter came forward with allegations that he sexually abused her throughout her childhood.
Laura Knoblach, 23, claimed her 60-year-old father started abusing her when she was nine years old and carried on until she was 21.
As a result, she claims it left her considering self-harming and being admitted into an in-patient psychiatric facility.
The Republican, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, denies the claims, calling them ‘indescribably hurtful’, but nonetheless feels he had no choice but to give up dreams of being reelected.
Minnesota state representative Jim Knoblach, 60, canceled his re-election campaign Friday as allegations of inappropriate touching from his daughter emerged
Laura Knoblach, 23, claimed her father abused her at least as far back as her being nine years old and right up until she was 21
Laura says her mother (center right) shrugged off her father’s behavior, putting it down to not growing up with sisters (Laura’s brother is pictured center left)
Although he won’t go for a ninth term, he plans on serving out his current one.
‘I love my children more than anything, and would never do anything to hurt them. Her allegations are false,’ Knoblach wrote in a statement. ‘I and other family members have made repeated attempts to reconcile with her in recent years, but she has refused.’
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio Laura says her dad’s actions over the estimated 12 years included kissing, licking and biting her ears.
She said she had been telling close friends, family and authority figures at her school and church about what was going on for more than 10 years.
Laura says her mother shrugged off her father’s behavior, putting it down to not growing up with sisters.
She says her maternal grandmother advised her against speaking out about him publicly as it would not only affect the community, which benefited from his financial contributions, but Laura would lose her family.
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio Laura says her dad’s actions over the estimated 12 years included kissing, licking and biting her ears
Laura’s interview with MPR came after an investigation into the matter was launched by St. Cloud Police Department and Sherburne County sheriff’s office in 2017 but they eventually did not file charges
Laura told the station she got rid of an earlier Facebook post about her dad due to pressure from relatives and attention from the media. In it, she wrote: ,My heart has never felt this heavy. But my shoulders have never been so light’
Laura details that her dad would pin her against the refrigerator or dishwasher and use his weight and strength to keep her from getting away
The St. Cloud Republican’s attorney, Susan Gaertner, denied the allegations in an interview with the station ahead of the story’s publication and said the veteran lawmaker ‘does not want to drag his family through six weeks of hell’ by continuing to keep them in the spotlight with the campaign.
Gaetner added that he feels he wouldn’t get a fair airing with voters come the elections in November.
‘These claims are being made in an environment, the #MeToo era, that makes it extremely difficult to defend yourself,’ she told MPR.
The Republican, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, denies the claims, calling them ‘indescribably hurtful’
Laura’s interview with MPR came after an investigation into the matter was launched by St. Cloud Police Department and Sherburne County sheriff’s office in 2017 but they eventually did not file charges.
Knoblach addressed this in his statement after the station says he declined an interview over a week ago.
‘Our daughter has been estranged from our family for some time,’ he said. ‘In late 2016 she made some extremely hurtful and untrue accusations on a Facebook post, which was briefly put up and then taken down. These accusations were fully investigated by Sherburne County, dismissed, and the case closed in April 2017.’
Addressing the removal of the social media post in December 2016, Laura told the station she got rid of it due to pressure from relatives and attention from the media.
She provided documentation to MPR backing up her claims that she tried to seek help in alternative ways. This includes audio recordings and transcripts with law enforcement.
MPR said the timeline matched up when verifying with her friends too.
‘My entire family had been like, “You’ll lose your family and you’re doing this terrible thing, and if he loses the next election it is your fault,”‘ she said. ‘And you know, even after I posted this on Facebook they’re like, “Your dad’s boss said this to him and that’s your fault”.’
Laura says her maternal grandmother advised her against speaking out about him publicly as it would affect the community which benefited from his financial contributions
A letter from the Sherburne County attorney’s office said there was ‘insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jim Knoblach had committed a crime’
The proof includes a letter from the Sherburne County attorney’s office saying there was ‘insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jim Knoblach had committed a crime’.
Laura told MPR of an early memory where she remembers her father coming into her bedroom after she’d gone to sleep. She claims he climbed in and laid down behind her.
‘He would put his arm around me and not let me get up or get away and he would lick my neck or bite my ear,’ she said.
A youth pastor confirmed to MPR that he reported a similar story to Child Protective Services on behalf of Laura between 2011 and 2012 but they didn’t find the claims serious enough to consider it sexual abuse.
Other instances included kissing across her arms and neck and biting her ears while they watched films on the couch, and she says she can recall more than 30 instances where her father approached her from behind and pressed his body against hers in the kitchen.
Laura details that he would pin her against the refrigerator or dishwasher and use his weight and strength to keep her from getting away.
She told MPR the incidents plagued her teenage years and affected her relationship with boys.
The station features a letter written by a teacher to the St. Cloud Christian School principal but the school – where Knoblach served on the board from 2007 to 2011 declined to comment.
Laura is now trying to heal after the ordeal through tough triathlons and counseling
She says after her family tried to persuade her to go through counseling with them but her father would only say he was sorry for her taking his actions the wrong way
Local police officer Trent Fischer explained that although he thinks Knoblach knew what he was doing was inappropriate, his behavior laid just outside the lines of Minnesota law’s five degrees of criminal sexual conduct.
It can include anything from trying to remove someone’s clothing or masturbating in front of a child under 16 to rape or other nonconsensual sexual contact.
She says after her family tried to persuade her to go through counseling with them but her father would only say he was sorry for her taking his actions the wrong way, she fell into a spiral that affected her mental health.
After being on short-term prescription medication and spending two nights in a psychiatric ward, she is now trying to heal through tough triathlons and counseling.
With Knoblach’s Republican seat becoming available, Democratic candidate Dan Wolgamott may benefit from the vacancy.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a statement that he supported Knoblach’s decision.