- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Marjorie Knoller was sentenced to the maximum of four years in prison yesterday for the dog-mauling death of a neighbor in their apartment building last year. With time served and good behavior, she could be out in about 14 months.

Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, were convicted in March in the death of Diane Whipple, who was attacked outside her door by the couple's two huge Presa Canario dogs in January 2001. Noel is already serving a four-year term.

Judge James Warren said Knoller deserved the maximum because she had shown no remorse and had lied under oath in denying that she had seen the two huge dogs bite or menace others.

"You knew those dogs were dangerous, you knew you could not control them, you took them outside, anyway, and it was clear at some point, someone was going to get hurt by those dogs," he said.

Knoller, who said nothing in court, also was ordered to pay $6,800 in restitution to Sharon Smith, Miss Whipple's partner.

"This isn't about money. It wouldn't matter if it was $6,800 or $68 million," Miss Smith said outside court. "I'm very happy today to be where we are, and that's Marjorie going to prison. Her being sentenced on manslaughter was my best hope."

Knoller, 47, was convicted of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a mischievous dog that killed someone. Noel, 61, was found guilty of the manslaughter and mischievous-dog charges.

Knoller could have gotten 15 years to life in prison for murder. But the judge threw out the charge, saying Knoller had no way of knowing the dogs would kill someone when she left her apartment that day.

The dogs, Bane and Hera, both outweighed the 110-pound victim. Knoller testified that she tried to fling herself between the animals and her 33-year-old neighbor to no avail. Noel was out of town at the time of the attack.

Later, Knoller denied responsibility and said in a TV interview that Miss Whipple could have saved herself simply by going inside her apartment. And Noel suggested Miss Whipple may have attracted the dogs' attention with her perfume or even steroids.

Prosecutors said they were pleased with the sentence, though they had pushed for the murder conviction.

"A life sentence won't bring back Diane Whipple. Four years won't bring her back," prosecutor James Hammer said.

"The only thing that would bring some peace, I think, to everyone who knew Diane is if this woman here, this lawyer, who lied at least 52 times, who mocked Diane Whipple and blamed her for her own death, would stand up as a human being and say, 'I'm sorry. I wish I hadn't done these things. I'm responsible and I'm ready to pay the price.'"

Defense lawyers left court without comment.

Prosecutors have appealed Judge Warren's dismissal of the murder conviction, but said yesterday that they probably will not retry Knoller.

The case stunned this city and made legal history when Miss Smith won the same right as a spouse to sue for damages. The state Legislature enacted a law to allow wrongful-death lawsuits by homosexual partners.

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