Music » Music Feature

Hard Knox or Scott free?

Atlanta clubs and bands help guitarist fight the law



Page 2 of 3

Scott's brother Brian Rogers, also a member of the Penetrators, knows Knox well. After the accident, Brian told his mother that Knox was the safest driver of all Scott's friends. He believes Scott would find the idea of punishing Knox ridiculous.

"Scott himself was a big proponent of people taking personal responsibility for their actions," Brian says, "and he would tell you he was the one that made the decision not to wear his seat belt."

Many of Rogers and Knox's mutual friends have reached the same conclusion: Knox might have fallen asleep at the wheel, but he wasn't driving recklessly or impaired by alcohol.

"So many people have said they've never seen Johnny drunk in their life," says Clete Reid, who plays with Knox in Cletis and His City Cousins.

"I've never even seen Johnny drink a whole lot," says Sonoramic Commando bassist Rodney Bell, who was with Knox at the Echo Lounge and Star Bar that night. "And I know Johnny doesn't do drugs. As to what caused the accident, there's really no telling. I would go before a judge and say that Johnny wasn't drunk."

Whether or not Johnny Knox was actually drunk, blood tests taken after the accident show alcohol was in his system. So, regardless of what anyone thinks -- even the family of the victim -- Knox's lawyer believes the Fulton County district attorney will attempt to charge him with DUI.

Erik Friedly, spokesman for the district attorney's office, doesn't know anything about Knox's case because it hasn't yet been brought before a grand jury. But his office has dealt with a remarkably similar, and more high profile case involving Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley, whose car crash last September resulted in the death of his passenger, teammate Dan Snyder. Though Snyder's relatives have forgiven Heatley and don't wish him to be punished, the district attorney's office is still investigating how it will pursue that case.

"While the district attorney always consults with surviving family members and weighs their opinion in making a decision, that in and of itself cannot determine whether or not we prosecute a crime," Friedly says. "For instance, even if you have a rape victim who may not want to go forward, that's just not an option [for us] because sexual offenders tend to repeat their offense."

The Rogers family has taken an active role in supporting Knox as he now faces prosecution. In a letter submitted to the court on Knox's behalf, Cheri Rogers and her husband, John, write, "To punish Johnny in any way ... would only be compounding an unfortunate situation and would unnecessarily penalize Johnny. ... We are overwhelmed by the loss of our son Scott. ... Believe us when we say, to seek some measure of justice against Johnny McGowan [Knox's real name] would be a travesty as well. His depth of pain and suffering about this situation is exceeded only by ours."

Lately, the most excruciating part for Knox has been the uncertainty. He wasn't actually arrested until late October -- five months after the accident. He spent two days in jail, posted bail, and has since been waiting for word of when his case might appear before a grand jury.

"I shouldn't feel depressed, but lately I have been," Knox says. "I'm a make-plans kind of guy, but I can't make plans. I was thinking about going back to school, but I can't make plans. We finished our record five months ago, but I can't get excited about it because I don't know if I'll be around to support it. I feel like there's an ax that Fulton County is holding and at any moment it can fall, so what's the incentive to wake up in the morning?"

Knox will likely wait another month or two before the grand jury hears the charges. At that point, assuming there's an indictment, the case would actually get rolling.

Already, though, the legal bills have been mounting. An effective defense would cost Knox in the tens of thousands, far more than he could earn between his nighttime gigging and daytime construction work.

That's where the benefit shows come into play. While all of them together will likely raise only a fraction of what Knox will need to pay his lawyer, organizers such as Echo Lounge booker Alex Weiss figure every bit helps.

Add a comment