A search warrant filed in Fresno County Superior Court sheds light on the sexually explicit conversations that allegedly occurred between an undercover detective and Robert Knight, a Fresno police officer who resigned on July 13 after he learned he was suspected of helping his girlfriend prostitute herself on Craigslist.
The Fresno Police Department recommended a misdemeanor charge of aiding in prostitution against Knight, who they say was helping Alicia Stapleton, 29, solicit sexual acts online. Stapleton was arrested July 9 after she met with an undercover Fresno Police Department detective and agreed to a sex act for money, the warrant said.
The search warrant was authored by vice detective David Fries and signed by Judge Jonathan Conklin the day after Knight’s resignation. It chronicles several conversations between Knight and an undercover vice detective through email and Twitter direct messages.
In these exchanges, Knight allegedly went into graphic detail about which sexual acts Stapleton would be willing to commit and included several nude photos of her. He also discussed the rules of meeting with Stapleton and her rate of $100 per hour, Fries said.
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Knight resigned as a Fresno police officer the day before the department executed a search of his Twitter, email and Craigslist accounts.
Stapleton works at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch near Carson City, Nevada; it’s one of several locations in Nevada in which prostitution is legal. She has a profile on the Bunny Ranch’s website under the name Allie Marie, and her Twitter handle @AllieMariebunny was one of several online accounts named in the warrant.
Owner Dennis Hof said Stapleton started working at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch a few months ago to raise funds for a child custody case with her ex-husband. He said the naughty maid service Stapleton advertised in Fresno did not involve sex, which would be grounds for her immediate firing from the ranch.
“This is not about prostitution,” Hof said. “This is about a police force that’s had some dirty officers, severe problems and a terrible public image lately.”
Hof said the department was trying to get rid of Knight, who was not hiding the fact that he was dating a legal prostitute. Now that Knight has resigned, he added, department leadership got what they wanted, and no charges will be filed.
Hof said that he had dinner with Knight and Stapleton during a vacation in Lake Tahoe. Knight told him that he was being scrutinized by police, but he would stay with Stapleton because he loved her and was supportive of her choices.
“He seemed like a nice guy,” Hof said of Knight.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said he appreciated Hof’s viewpoint, but Hof is “not familiar with the criminal investigation and the evidence we have in this case.”
Dyer had this to say about the allegation that his department attempted to get rid of Knight: “I am sensitive to the conduct of our officers, both on and off duty, because of our profession and the trust that people place in us to uphold the law.”
Stapleton split time between the Bunny Ranch and Knight’s home in Fresno. The warrant indicated that a picture of Stapleton wearing revealing clothing in a sexually suggestive pose was used as part of the solicitation on Craigslist. The photo was allegedly taken in Knight’s bathroom and found with several other nude photos during a search of his phone.
He was an average Joe out here just pushing a beat car around.
Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez on ex-officer Robert Knight
The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office is considering whether to file charges against Knight.
Assistant District Attorney Rick Thomas was assigned to review the evidence and prosecute Knight if he is charged. Thomas said Tuesday afternoon that he was still reviewing the case.
Steve Wright, an assistant district attorney who was present when police handed off the case during a Monday meeting, said there were a lot of documents to look over before deciding whether to file charges.
“Because this isn’t a felony arrest, we aren’t forced to file charges within the first 48 hours,” Wright said. “We have time to cross our t’s and dot our i’s.”
Wright said the DA’s office may ask police for more follow-up if it believes the evidence collected over the last few weeks is insufficient to secure a conviction.
Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez said Knight was a patrol officer in the Southwest Policing District. He was not aware of Knight receiving any commendations or disciplinary actions during his 17-year career.
“He was an average Joe out here just pushing a beat car around,” Gomez said.
Stapleton’s former mother-in-law was named as the source of the police’s initial information in the search warrant.