A judge on Jan. 3 sentenced a former Waukesha pastor to eight months in jail and 10 years probation for restraining and fondling a 10-year-old girl in his church office in July 2015.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Lee Dreyfus imposed the sentence on 73-year-old Peter Knebel, according to online court records.
Knebel worked for a time as a congregational care pastor at Fox River Christian Church in Waukesha. He pleaded guilty to an amended charge of second-degree sexual assault of a child and Dreyfus found him guilty last October.
Knebel was originally charged with first-degree sexual assault of a child/sexual contact with a person younger than 13 years old on July 27, 2015, following the July 19 incident. The church suspended him once the allegations surfaced.
Tied to allegations
According to a criminal complaint, Knebel told police he brought the victim into his church office and instructed her to sit on his lap while she was using a computer. Knebel put his arm around her before moving his hand up and over her body. He said in the complaint that he touched the girl's breast with his thumb.
The girl said Knebel forced her to sit on him by wrapping his right arm around her stomach and pulling her onto his lap. She told police Knebel pulled so hard it felt like her "stomach was going to burst," according to the complaint. She said Knebel touched her for around 30 seconds before she ran out of the office "uncomfortable and scared."
In a letter addressed to the victim filed before the sentencing, Knebel apologized to the girl.
"I am truly very sorry," he wrote. "I hope some day you will be able to forgive me, not for my sake, but so you can be healed from the pain I caused you."
In his role at the church, Knebel made hospital visits and provided care to grieving families. He also helped families plan funerals and directed the services.
Knebel was facing up to 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
Dreyfus a stayed a four-year prison term in favor of jail and probation for Knebel, court records show.
He ordered Knebel to serve the first four months of his jail term as "straight time" and the remaining four during non-working hours, court records show.
Knebel must also register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment, is prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with minor females and cannot be employed by or involved in any community service organization that involves unsupervised contact with minor females.
Additionally, he may not contact the victim or her family except for therapeutic reasons and only if the victim requests it.
Knebel began serving his jail term immediately after the hearing concluded.