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City man sentenced in sex assault case

Knisely pled guilty to charges involving sexual relationship with teenage girl

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A 21-year-old Altoona man will spend eight to 16 years in prison for engaging in an illicit sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl that included his use of an alter ego, a list of rules and filmed encounters.

Seth A. Knisely, who has been in Blair County Prison since his arrest a year ago, rendered guilty pleas Tuesday to multiple counts of statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual abuse of a child, unlawful contact with a minor and related charges.

President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle accepted the pleas and imposed the negotiated incarceration time, followed by four years’ probation.

Defense attorney John Siford said Knisely understood his right to go to trial but remained eager to address the matter by rendering guilty pleas.

“It was just a matter of negotiating the terms,” Siford said.

When Doyle asked Knisely why he was pleading guilty, Knisely told her: “Cause I did those things.”

Altoona police charged Knisely in June 2019 with 60-plus felonies after he admitted to engaging in an ongoing sexual relationship with the 14-year-old girl, starting in February 2018.

The girl told police that she had a “tumultuous relationship” with her parents and turned to Knisely, who befriended her and provided support.

In court Tuesday, the girl said she lives with the emotional scars of what happened.

“I got betrayed by somebody I trusted,” she said.

Doyle advised the girl that she shouldn’t blame herself.

“It was not your fault,” the judge told the girl who wiped away tears and nodded her head.

The girl, during a forensic interview at the Blair County Children’s Advocacy Center, said Knisely encouraged her to confide in him. She said he had an alter ego named “Vlad” that he wrote about in a notebook.

The notebook also contained a list of rules, the girl told police, outlining what he expected of her and how he expected her to behave within their relationship. She told police that Knisely had given her the notebook on occasions and encouraged her to write in it.

Police said the girl and Knisely spoke of having sexual relations at various locations including Altoona, Bellwood and Gallitzin.

The girl also said that Knisely used his cellphone to record sex with her and then sent her the video. He also sent her nude pictures of himself and asked her to do the same, police said.

When imposing the sentence, Doyle directed Knisely to have no contact with the victim.

She also directed him to undergo treatment for sexual offenders and to complete an evaluation that could determine if he meets the definition of a sexually violent predator.

Knisely is also required to regularly register his address and related information with state police.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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