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Benton Harbor commissioner, mayoral candidate arrested

October 21, 2011|By John Paul (jpaul@wsbt.com), Click here to follow John on Twitter | By John Paul (jpaul@wsbt.com), Click here to follow John on Twitter

BENTON HARBOR – Dennis Knowles is accused of harassing and threatening a woman over the phone. He's a voice for the people of Benton Harbor, but prosecutors say the city commissioner and mayoral candidate used his voice to intimidate and disturb the peace.

Knowles was picked up at Benton Harbor City Hall, fingerprinted and booked at the Benton Harbor Police Department. He faces two charges for disturbing the peace and one count of malicious use of telecommunications.

WSBT News filed a Freedom of Information request. According to police reports, on September 8 prosecutors say Knowles played loud music around and inside the federal building in Benton Harbor.

Workers reportedly asked him to leave because he disturbed a meeting.

Then, on September 12, Knowles is accused of causing a scene – spouting profanity until he left the building.

But it's the accusation of phone harassment, reported August 9, that could land Knowles in jail for at least six months.

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Knowles said he was upset with someone trying to sell drugs to his girlfriend at the time.

"I can't say what I said, but it was b**** and m****f**** don't be selling or giving my girl these drugs," said Knowles.

He admitted he was upset, but was trying to protect an ex-girlfriend.

"I used strong language, yes I did," he said. "If anyone knows Dennis Knowles, they know I do curse. That's just me."

The victim wrote the Berrien County prosecutor on September 14. The letter was entered as evidence – and it provided a different account of what happened.

The victim admitted Knowles used “choice” words when she refused to get out of the bed to tell a neighbor something. But, she said, he also threatened to 'kill" the woman and her son and "blow" her house up.

The victim told prosecutors she would call police. She said Knowles told her "the police aren't going to f*** with me."

Knowles was cool and calm inside the Benton Harbor City Hall office. He believes he was set up, and the allegations against him are merely a tactic to get him removed from office.

"Always the one painted a villain is not the villain," he said. "I am the victim."

All of the charges against Knowles are misdemeanors. If he is found guilty, he could pay fines and penalties and receive up to a 6-month sentence. And for the two disturbing the peace counts reported in mid-September, Knowles could face 90 days in jail.

Knowles will appear in court November 3. So what does this mean for him at the polls on November 8?

"I don't take this as adverse," Knowles said. "As a matter of fact, it's pretty good. It's good timing."

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