Reporter's notebook: How I pursued the Knoblach story

This is an unusual story and a tough story. We thought you should know what went into my reporting.

I first talked to Laura Knoblach nearly two years ago, during a time when many reporters were reaching out to her.

It was December 2016, and she had written a public Facebook post accusing her father, state Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, of "molesting" her for "most of her life."

Her phone number was listed publicly on her profile back then.

I called her and we talked a few times in the following weeks as she told me about her allegations. I worked for WCCO-TV at the time. She didn't tell me our conversations were off the record, but I didn't record them.

After a few weeks, I stopped hearing from her. I did not hear from her until more than a year later, on Feb. 22, 2018. She texted me and told me she felt ready to tell her story. By then, I was working for MPR News.

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During that year we didn't speak, the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office had investigated the case, and the county attorney's office declined to file any charges against Jim Knoblach.

Laura Knoblach told me that she had taken some time after that decision to seek counseling for depression and anxiety.

She told me she wanted to move forward with sharing her story with MPR News.

I consulted with my MPR News editors and we decided to look into her allegations with the condition that she would need to give us significant documentation if we were going to pursue the story.

She agreed to request a copy of the investigative case file from the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office and to share those documents with MPR News.

She told me she reached out to Sheriff Joel Brott to obtain her case file on March 6, 2018.

Because the case involved allegations of possible sex crimes involving a minor, Minnesota data practices law says those records should be sealed to protect the privacy of the accuser. So she could get her own case file, but no one else could.

After she obtained her case file, she told me she was still reading through it on March 20, 2018.

The file included hundreds of pages of interviews with her, several of her friends, some family members and trusted adults she had reached out to in her childhood.

The case file makes no mention of any attempt to reach Jim Knoblach. Brott eventually told me that Jim Knoblach, through an attorney, declined to be interviewed.

On May 12, 2018, Laura Knoblach sent me the file transcripts. She apologized via text for being "radio silent for a month."

I don't know why she waited to give me the materials, but I did not feel it was ethical for me to push someone into giving me something so personal, so I gave her as much time as she needed.

At this point, I then had to work to corroborate what was in the case file by reaching out to as many people interviewed as possible.

We also submitted several records requests to different counties in which the Knoblach family had lived.

We were also looking for information that would support Jim Knoblach's claim the alleged behavior never happened.

Many of the records requests came back within days, but some records requested did not become available to MPR News until Sept. 13, 2018.

MPR News did not consider the election a factor when taking the time necessary to thoroughly report this story.

During this research process, I also traveled to Boulder, Colo., to interview Laura Knoblach in person. I interviewed her for four hours at her home on July 5, 2018.

At this time, I asked her to go back to authorities and request the audio components in her case file. That would confirm that the transcripts we had already received were accurate and hadn't been altered.

She told me she submitted the request for the audio recordings on Aug. 14, 2018.

On Sept. 5, 2018, I received a CD with audio recordings from the investigation. The recordings matched the written transcripts exactly.

On Sept. 10, 2018, I contacted Jim Knoblach seeking his response to the allegations and he let me know his attorney would be in touch with me.

On Sept. 21, 2018, I interviewed Susan Gaertner, who had represented Jim Knoblach during the criminal investigation.

That same day, we broadcast and published our reporting.