Collier Deputy Fired For Sexually Harassing Women

By Ryan Mills, Naples Daily News, April 17, 2007

A four-year veteran of the Collier County Sheriff's Office was fired in January after two internal investigations revealed he was sexually harassing women while on duty.

According to an internal investigation obtained Monday by the Naples Daily News and reported on, Cpl. Christopher Knott, who started with the agency in January 2003, was fired in January after it was revealed he grabbed the shorts of a woman working at a local restaurant and told her he wanted naked pictures of her.

Another investigation revealed that Knott, 32, had been "checking out" a woman in a shopping center parking lot, and then pulled the woman over in Lee County for what she deemed to be no apparent reason.

But Knott said in the report he was joking with the restaurant employee, whom he had known for years, and had pulled the other woman over because of a report of littering. Multiple attempts to reach Knott, who collected $45,413 a year, for comment were unsuccessful.

Around 7:45 p.m. on July 31, 2006, Jennifer Hipwell, a manager the Pelican Larry's Raw Bar & Grill at 2700 Immokalee Road, was on break behind the restaurant when Knott drove up to her while he was on duty, in uniform and in a marked Sheriff's Office vehicle, an investigation revealed. Knott worked on road patrol in North Naples, authorities said.

Hipwell and Knott, who have known each other for about three years as acquaintances, made small talk for a few minutes when Hipwell mentioned she was "a little grumpy," a Sheriff's Office report said.

Knott then told Hipwell to "come here and sit on my lap. I'll make you feel better," Hipwell wrote in a complaint.

When she moved closer to Knott's vehicle, Knott grabbed Hipwell's shorts and had four fingers inside the waistband, authorities said.

When Hipwell asked him what he was doing and told him to stop, Knott said: "Come on, I want to see your panties," the investigation revealed.

During an interview, Hipwell told authorities Knott was pulling her shorts toward him and downward so he could see her underwear, the report said. She said Knott was trying to take her pants off.

"Hey, nice green drawers," Knott recalled saying to Hipwell, to which she replied: "They're blue."

Hipwell wrote in a complaint that Knott then told her "I want to see naked pictures of you." She then called her husband on her cell phone "figuring it would be a distraction and I could get away."

On Aug. 6, 2006, Hipwell said Knott returned to Pelican Larry's off-duty with friends and continued talking to her in a lewd manner. She said Knott asked her: "When are you moving in with me?" He also told her "My wife's bags are packed. I love you," Hipwell told authorities.

Knott told authorities he was talking to Hipwell in a joking manner. Knott admitted that he "probably" said he wanted naked pictures of Hipwell in various conversations, but didn't know if he said that to her the night of the incident, the investigation revealed.

Knott also admitted in the report to grabbing Hipwell's shorts, but said he did so because he was receiving a call and attempted to tell her to hold on because he wanted to talk to her.

Hipwell filed a complaint against Knott with the Sheriff's Office's Professional Responsibility Bureau on Aug. 11, 2006.

On Nov. 1, 2006, Sonja Craparo, who worked for the News-Press in Fort Myers, was on a sales call at the Pavilion Shopping Center in Naples when she observed a male deputy who appeared to be following her and watching her, the investigation revealed. Craparo left the parking lot in her silver Honda and went north on U.S. 41.

When she passed through the intersection of U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road, a deputy behind her who later was identified as Knott activated his lights and pulled her over, authorities said.

Craparo asked the deputy why he pulled her over, considering he had just been "checking her out" at the shopping center, she told investigators. Knott explained that a person in a different vehicle told him that a passenger in a silver vehicle had thrown something out the window.

"You had just seen me 20 minutes before at the Pavilion," Craparo said. "You were checking me out. You know I had no passenger."

Knott told investigators he was at the shopping center to meet his wife when a driver in a white SUV flagged him down and told him that the passenger in a silver car threw something out the window. Knott headed north on U.S. 41 and pulled over the first silver vehicle he came upon ? Craparo's, he said.

Knott said he explained to Craparo why he pulled her over. When he realized Craparo didn't have a passenger he apologized and left, he told investigators.

Knott acknowledged that he didn't follow department policy when pulling over Craparo, did not check out the alleged complaint over the radio by getting the driver's name or license plate number, and made the stop in Lee County. Deputies are required to radio into dispatch to report the location of a traffic stop, the make of the vehicle they've pulled over and the license plate number, the Sheriff's Office reported.

Knott told investigators he was in a "hurry."

A polygraph exam taken during the internal investigation regarding the traffic stop showed "there were ... responses indicative of deception," the report indicates.

On Jan. 19, 2007, Knott turned in his resignation. But his resignation was "rendered moot" because his appointment was withdrawn on Jan. 22 for unlawful or improper conduct on or off duty and willfully departing from the truth, the investigation revealed.

Knott appealed the decision, but Collier Sheriff Don Hunter denied his appeal.

"I find that there has been no new mitigating or exculpatory information brought forward in your appeal, and that the evidence in the file is credible and persuasive," Hunter wrote to Knott. "Your conduct was contrary to Agency policy and to the best interest of the Collier County Sheriff's Office."

The Sheriff's Office reported that Knott had been disciplined once before for "carelessness in duty performance" in 2005.