A 73-year-old Bigfork man serving time for sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl is attempting to withdraw his Alford guilty plea.
On Jan. 2, George Wilcoxen was sentenced in Flathead District Court to the Department of Corrections for 20 years with 15 years suspended with recommendations for screening and placement with Intensive Supervised Probation. Wilcoxen was also ordered to serve 30 days in the Flathead County Detention Center.
According to court documents, the victim was spending the night at Wilcoxen’s home in 2013 when he reportedly took her into his bedroom, held her down and assaulted her.
Wilcoxen’s attorneys claim all parties believed and intended Wilcoxen would serve 30 days in jail, then be released back into the community on supervised probation.
An Alford plea results in a conviction, but allows a defendant to maintain his or her innocence. It acknowledges that a defendant is likely to be found guilty at trial.
According to his lawyer, Peter Leander, Wilcoxen has now reportedly served more than 60 days in jail and is facing the possibility of incarceration at Montana State Prison.
According to the court documents submitted by Wilcoxen’s attorneys, Wilcoxen only agreed to the plea agreement because he was advised several times that he had already been screened and accepted into Intensive Supervised Probation.
Wilcoxen’s lawyers claim that had he been aware of the actual consequences of his plea, he never would have entered into the agreement. They claim it is “fundamentally wrong” for Wilcoxen to be subjected to a sentence to which he didn’t agree and ”was not aware was possible.”
Leander claims Wilcoxen was “shocked and fearful” when he wasn’t released after the 30 days at the Flathead County Detention Center and immediately contacted his lawyers.
Wilcoxen was transferred to the Missoula Assessment and Sanction Center, where he currently remains incarcerated.
The victim family’s attorney issued a response to Wilcoxen’s motion to withdraw his Alford guilty plea in a document that highlights the wording used by Flathead District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht during Wilcoxen’s sentencing.
Ulbricht stated “The court will recommend you are screened and placed in Intensive Supervised Probation,” and he replied that he understood.
The victim family’s attorney claims that the Missoula Assessment and Sanction Center, where Wilcoxen is being held, is part of this screening process.
The explicit purpose of this facility is to “determine the most appropriate placement for offenders through clear, accurate and impartial assessment,” the court document reads.
According to Missoula Assessment and Sanction Center’s website, the facility offers alternatives to prison without compromising the safety of Montana communities by ensuring that offenders are appropriately placed.
In the response for Wilcoxen’s request to withdraw his Alford Guilty Plea, the victim’s attorney also urged the court to consider the “substantial effort already devoted to achieving this plea agreement ,,, not to mention the considerable impact on the victim and her family if the plea agreement were withdrawn before the screening is complete.”
Reporter Breeana Laughlin can be reached at 758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.