ESPN to feature Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association embezzlement case
The theft of nearly $1 million from an Ann Arbor youth hockey league by a former bookkeeper will be featured on an upcoming ESPN broadcast, officials said Thursday.
A video crew and reporter from the global sports cable network interviewed several members of the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association and others associated with the criminal case against Kimberly Knight Thursday afternoon at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube in Pittsfield Township.
Knight, of Chelsea, pleaded guilty in June to stealing more than $934,000 from AAAHA while severing as its bookkeeper for several years. She was sentenced to one year in jail, but the sentence was deferred for one year while she continues to make payments toward the roughly $700,000 she was ordered to pay in restitution.
Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Melinda Morris will review the case next September.
The footage, and more to be taken at the facility today, will be featured on the “Outside the Lines” series, which provides in-depth, and investigative reporting on issues in sports that often have a broader impact in society.
ESPN Producer Jim Witalka said Knight’s case will likely appear as part of larger feature story on the abuse of funds occurring in youth sports leagues across the country. However, the case is unique enough to warrant its own episode, he said.
“Youth sports are becoming a target for these crimes because there is not a lot of oversight or safeguards in place to prevent it,” said Witalka, bureau producer for “SportsCenter,” ESPN’s flagship show.
“When you hear $934,000 that is certainly a lot of money for any organization, especially from a youth league.”
Art Aisner | For AnnArbor.com
Reporter Steve Dehlson, who is based in California, said he wanted to pursue the story after getting involved in the youth sports leagues his children are involved in. He interviewed AAAHA Secretary Karen Coulter and new Vice President Mike Reid on Thursday.
Knight declined interviews, but her attorney, Mike LeGris, is expected to sit down with producers today, Witalka said.
“They contacted me to do what they call providing some kind of balance,” said LeGris. “She’s remorseful and has taken responsibility not only for what she did but to pay the money back.”
Court records indicate Knight paid a $75,000 lump sum at sentencing in September, and continues to make monthly payments of $1,500 per court order. She told Morris at the time of sentencing she was working at her husband’s towing company.
A lengthy investigation by the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety showed Knight established personal accounts in her maiden name at the same banks holding AAAHA accounts and frequently transferred funds for her own use.
The fund she took from was intended for an independent hockey rink for AAAHA, which currently leases offices and ice time from the Ice Cube.
Diane Wilson, the Cube’s general manager, said she was more than happy to have the network set up in a meeting room overlooking the ice for two days, even though it’s still a tough topic for area hockey lovers.
“The more exposure of this the better,” she said. “I hope people are getting the real story from AAAHA about what happened and that they understand this whole thing was a travesty.”
Witalka said he did not know whether the segment would appear on the shorter daily version of the show, or its longer counterpart, which typically airs on the weekend. No tentative air date has been set.
Art Aisner is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530.