MDJ Sonya McKnight to serve 10 more days of unpaid suspension, probation on ethics violation

A year and a half after Harrisburg District Judge Sonya McKnight was acquitted of criminal charges brought against her for obstructing a traffic stop involving her son, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline imposed sanctions for the ethical violations they committed that night would have.

McKnight was charged with evidence tampering, official suppression and obstruction of the law after she went to the scene of a traffic stop and drug-related arrest involving her son Kevin Baltimore on February 22, 2020.

Although authorities said she disrupted the stop and used her position to get into her son’s car and remove a bottle of pills, a Berks County judge who joined her case in July 2021 acquitted her of all charges .

The Court of Judicial Discipline filed an opinion Tuesday, saying they ordered McKnight to serve 200 days of unpaid suspension and one year of probation based on other criteria.

McKnight will receive credit for 190 days of unpaid suspension served from February 9, 2021 to August 18, 2021. The remaining 10 days she must now serve begin on February 9, the court ordered.

“A special condition of this parole is that Magisterial District Judge McKnight commit no further ethical violations of any kind,” the court wrote.

While McKnight will not be held criminally responsible for the conduct, the court said in the statement that she “acknowledged her improper wrongdoing” and “expressed remorse for her wrongdoing.”

The court also wrote that McKnight’s conduct “undermined respect for the judiciary” and was “committed to furthering her own interests or those of her family.”

During the trial, prosecutors argued that McKnight used her position as a judge to “intimidate” the Harrisburg Police Department and interfere with the investigation, and had several officers testify against her.

One described her as “excited” and that she felt intimidated by McKnight, particularly after McKnight asked if Police Commissioner Thomas Carter was working that night.

McKnight’s attorney used silent dashcam footage to support his case, showing that she is calm and unexcited in their interactions.

Carter also testified and said he didn’t think McKnight did anything wrong, but said he warned her that she needed to be there as a concerned parent, not an MDJ.

The case was not investigated by the Harrisburg Police Department due to possible conflicts of interest, which resulted in the Attorney General’s office taking over the case and indictment.

McKnight’s attorney used silent dashcam footage to support his case, showing that she is calm and unexcited in their interactions.

McKnight had many community supporters throughout the trial and thereafter, including people who argued that she deserved payback on her fall 2021 suspension.

“The AOPC has no authority to make back-payments to a lawyer who has been suspended without pay,” said Pennsylvania Courts Clerk’s Office spokeswoman Stacey Witalec. “There is no rule, policy or precedent that entitles a suspended judge who is later acquitted to receive a payback.”

After the acquittal, McKnight celebrated:

“I feel great. God is good. I’m thankful and thankful,” she said at the time. “I’m grateful to God that day for believing in me and knowing I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

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