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Press Release

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Sentenced To 15 Years On Child Pornography Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina
The Defendant also Sexually Abused Eight Children Over a 35 Year Period


ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced today that Paul Delavan Knoke, 77, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel residing in Asheville, was sentenced to 180 months in prison on child pornography charges.  U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered Knoke to a lifetime of supervised release, and to register as a sex offender after he is released from prison.

U.S. Attorney Murray is joined in making today’s announcement by John Eisert, Acting Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte, and Interim Chief Wade Wood of the Asheville Police Department.

“For decades, Knoke inflicted horrific and sustained sexual abuse upon innocent children entrusted in his care,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “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.”

“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,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge John Eisert. “Our HSI special agents and local law enforcement partners are committed to uncovering these crimes against children and ensuring that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“I want to express my gratitude to our federal law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s office for their vital partnerships in removing dangerous child sexual predators from our community. The Asheville Police Department is proud of our detectives that worked tirelessly in this partnership to bring about a successful prosecution of Knoke which resulted in sentencing to federal prison. We are committed to continuing our coordinated investigations to bring such individuals to justice and to protect our children,” said Chief Wade Wood.

According to court documents and statements made in court, in June 2017, law enforcement became aware that Knoke was viewing child pornography online.  Law enforcement executed a search warrant at the residence where Knoke was residing at the time and seized multiple computers, thumb drives, other devices, and printouts that belonged to Knoke.   A forensic analysis of Knoke’s items revealed that Knoke possessed an extensive collection of sexually explicit images of minor males which he had shared with other offenders.  Court records also show that Knoke admitted that he sexually abused at least eight minors entrusted in his care at various times for more than three decades. Investigators estimate that Knoke committed over 1,500 contact offenses against the children in his care.  Knoke pleaded guilty in August 2018 to five counts of receipt of child pornography, three counts of distribution of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.

Knoke has been in federal custody since June 2018 and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.  Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The investigation was handled by Homeland Security Investigations and the Asheville Police Department.  In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray also thanked the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Police and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for their substantial assistance in this case.

Luis Permont, Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, said “I thank Homeland Security Investigations and the Asheville Police Department for their coordination and collaboration in this investigation.  Together, we worked as a cohesive unit to ensure the truth about Knoke’s activities was revealed.  The Office of Special Investigations relies heavily on our relationships with our local and federal law enforcement partners to protect the safety of men, women and children in the United States.  I hope the successful outcome of this investigation will bring closure to the victims of Knoke’s actions and their families.”

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children.  By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Updated May 2, 2019

Project Safe Childhood