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Knight pleads not guilty in beating case

Friday, December 4, 2009

The second defendant in an aggravated assault case was arraigned in Circuit Court Wednesday, and entered a plea of not guilty.

Billy Jack Knight, 29, of Petersburg, was represented in court by his appointed attorney, David McKenzie, who said the outcome is by no means a foregone conclusion.

"The investigation is on-going," McKenzie said. "I believe more people are going to come forward and tell their side of the story."

McKenzie is getting a transcript of the tape-recording made at Knight's preliminary hearing in City Court on Oct. 26. At that time, Judge Roger Brandon heard from witnesses Roy and Deamicos Wilson, as well as Lewisburg Police Officer Clyde Ragsdale, and LPD Detective Santiago McKlean. There was no testimony from Miriam Sweeney, referred to as Knight's "wife" or "girlfriend," though all agreed that she was a witness to the assault on Danny J. King, 20, of Freeman Drive.

McKenzie said he heard that Sweeney had offered to tell her version of the events on Aug. 15, but nobody has taken her up on it so far.

"One fact that I gleaned (from the preliminary hearing)," McKenzie said. "While Mr. King, the victim, was being assaulted, my client was lying on the ground some 20 feet away. That was unconditionally stated by all the witnesses, including the victim, who could not identify my client."

King told the court his eyesight was "bad" and admitted that McKenzie, standing six feet away, was "blurry." King had glasses, but never replaced them after they broke some months before.

McKenzie will file for discovery, which will allow him access to statements taken by Ragsdale and, later, by McKlean. McKenzie got a glimpse of the statements at the preliminary hearing and noticed that the ones taken by McKlean were much longer, more detailed, and some of them were radically different from the ones taken by Ragsdale within a few hours of the assault.

"There's a problem with the investigation," McKenzie said, adding, "Lewisburg has a good detective division, the best I've worked with. I've had no problems with Santiago (McKlean) in previous cases."

Knight's fellow defendant, Phillip J. Venable, 23, was arrested after the preliminary hearing, at which Deamicos Wilson testified that he saw Venable hit King twice. This was at variance with both of Deamicos Wilson's written statements, and his testimony in court, when he said he did not see any punches, and did not see King's face bleeding.

"You better come clean with this court," Brandon said, warning Deamicos that perjury was a felony that could land him behind bars. "You better start thinking what you're testifying to."

Deamicos then incriminated Venable, saying Knight and King fell to the ground and "then P.J. (Venable) did the hitting."

"It's your testimony under oath that Phillip Venable is the one who caused the injuries to Mr. King - you saw him hit him with his fist?" Brandon asked.

"Yes, sir," responded Deamicos.

His father, Roy Wilson, refused to say that he saw Venable do anything, or that he saw any more damage to King's face than a scratch.

"I think you're protecting Phillip Venable," McKenzie challenged.

"No - no," Roy Wilson said. "If he hit that man I did not see it, but I wouldn't put it past him. I ain't got to lie; I ain't withholding anything."

Knight is free on bond, and is due back in Circuit Court on Jan. 20. Venable will be in court on Dec. 16.