A 73-year-old Bigfork man was convicted of felony sexual assault in Flathead County District Court more than a year and a half after he was accused of abusing a 6-year-old girl.
George Wilcoxen pleaded guilty by way of Alford during a change of plea and sentencing hearing before Judge Heidi Ulbricht on Jan. 3. Wilcoxen was sentenced to 20 years with the Department of Corrections with 15 years suspended and will have to serve 30 days in the Flathead County Jail. He was designated a level-one sex offender, will have to attend a sexual offender treatment program and will need to be supervised anytime he is with anyone below the age of 18.
An Alford plea occurs when a defendant maintains and asserts their innocence but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence that, if presented to a jury, could result in a conviction.
According to court documents, a woman called the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office in July 2015 to report that Wilcoxen had sexually assaulted her daughter in 2013. Detectives with the Flathead County Children’s Advocacy Center conducted a forensic interview with the girl who said she stayed at Wilcoxen’s home in the summer of 2013. During that visit, Wilcoxen allegedly took the girl into his bedroom, held her down and sexually assaulted her.
Wilcoxen was arrested and charged in August 2016. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment later that month.
Wilcoxen had previously pleaded Alford to felony sexual assault in April 2017 after prosecutors and his attorney, Peter Leander, crafted a non-binding plea agreement where the defendant would receive a 10-year suspended DOC sentence. But in August, Judge Ulbricht rejected the binding plea agreement and allowed Wilcoxen to withdraw his plea and go to trial. Wilcoxen was set to stand trial later this month.
Wilcoxen has maintained his innocence. On Jan. 3, Wilcoxen said he took a plea deal because he wanted to avoid the risk of going to prison if the case went to trial. The punishment for felony sexual assault involving a minor is a minimum of 25 years in prison up to a life sentence.
A prominent community member in Bigfork, Wilcoxen has volunteered for community events over the years, including dressing as Santa Claus during the holidays.