A five-year legal battle over a rape lawsuit against William A. Knack seemed to be settled in April when a federal bankruptcy judge ruled for Noelle S. Feldman, who had sued to stop the Chappaqua psychologist from using bankruptcy court to avoid paying a $958,000 trial court judgment.
But Feldman did not live to see the victory. She died days before the ruling.
Now the attorneys who represented her have filed a new proceeding Jan. 3 in bankruptcy court on behalf of her estate.
“William Knack inflicted willful and malicious injury on Ms. Feldman,” Justin M. Gardner and William P. Harrington state in their complaint, “which resulted in a judgment that is non-dischargeable.”
Feldman, who was a resident of Pound Ridge, had accused Knack of sexually assaulting her during a 2013 psychotherapy session at his home-office.
She sued him in 2014. After a 7-day trial in 2017, a Westchester Supreme Court jury found that Knack had committed first-degree rape and awarded Feldman a verdict of $950,000 plus interest.
Knack, who moved to Somers, has steadfastly denied the allegations. He claimed, for example, that Feldman had sexually assaulted him on a different occasion.
Judge Terry Jane Ruderman of Westchester Supreme Court rejected Knack’s request to overturn the verdict.
He appealed her decision and he petitioned bankruptcy court for Chapter 11 reorganization, claiming $640,624 in assets and $1.7 million in liabilities.
Feldman filed an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court to protect her verdict. Her complaint was put on hold during the appeal of the trial court decision.
“Dr. Knack has always disputed the allegations against him,” attorney Dawn Kirby stated in a February bankruptcy court filing.
She said an attorney for Feldman had sent a threatening letter to SUNY Old Westbury, where Knack was employed as an associate professor of psychology, that cost him his job.
“Plaintiff and her counsel have gone above and beyond to retaliate against Dr. Knack,” she said. “Plaintiff was looking for a sensational outcome, and she got one.”
Kirby asked bankruptcy court to defer ruling on Feldman’s request for a summary judgment while the trial court appeal was pending.
Five weeks later, the appellate court upheld the trial court decision.
On April 19, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean H. Lane granted Feldman summary judgment and declared that the $957,675 trial court judgement could not be discharged.
Feldman died on April 16 or April 18, according to court records. She was about 60 years old, Harrington said. The cause and circumstances are not disclosed in court records.
“It is utterly unclear why the plaintiff has filed a duplicate complaint asserting allegations and causes of action that have already been adjudicated,” Kirby said in an email.
Knack has asked bankruptcy court to convert his Chapter 11 case to Chapter 7 liquidation. Gardner said he had no objection to the conversion in an August letter to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert D. Drain. But justice, he said, “came too little, too late.”
He said Knack abused his position as a therapist to prey on Feldman and then tried to use her traumatic childhood and mental health treatment history to discredit her at trial.
Knack’s conduct “undoubtedly … contributed to the tragic circumstances that led to Noelle’s death,” Gardner claimed.
“While Dr. Knack may have successfully used this bankruptcy proceeding to delay justice during Noelle’s lifetime,” he stated, “those who knew and loved Noelle still pray that justice will ultimately prevail.”