LIBBY – A judge from Libby faces a hearing before the Montana Judicial Standards Commission on allegations he offered female defendants leniency in return for sexual favors.
Gary D. Hicks is a married, two-term justice of the peace. He was first elected six years ago, and previously worked as a car salesman.
Six named women and five “Jane Does” have come forward with complaints that Hicks made advances toward them while they were appearing before his court as defendants in legal matters. Hicks has denied the allegations.
The first woman came forward on April 19, 2007, said Lt. Detective Jim Sweet of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.
Sweet said he investigated and learned of additional complaints. On May 23, 2007, he handed over the case to the state Division of Criminal Investigation. The matter eventually worked its way to the Judicial Standards Commission, which last fall called on Kalispell attorney Steve Berg to conduct an independent investigation.
“Motives can be tricky in a case like this, because judges generally aren’t real popular with defendants,” Sweet said.
However, some of the complainants “don’t even know each other, but their stories are awfully similar,” he said.
Attorney Tammi Fisher, who is representing Hicks, said Libby is a small town, and she believes news of the initial complaints made its way through local rumor channels.
She said she required Hicks to take a lie-detector test before agreeing to represent him, “and he passed.”
“If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have taken the case, because I have a strong distaste for unethical behavior,” Fisher said. “I’m convinced the allegations are unfounded.”
Although Hicks often met defendants in court when no one else was present, “his door was always wide open,” Fisher said. “That was his policy.”
In the official complaint, filed by Berg after his investigation, the women accuse Hicks of commenting on their physical appearance while they were in his court, and of looking at them in a “lascivious manner.”
Hicks is accused of telling some of the women he was available if they “desired to have sexual relations with an older man.”
The judge reportedly visited some of the women at their homes or at work, and told one defendant she looked “cute in blue,” a reference to her jail uniform. Another said he told her she was “too beautiful to be in trouble.”
“There certainly was a sense that if they had sex with him, they’d be treated with leniency in his court,” Berg said.
One woman told investigators Hicks offered to “work with” her regarding her legal troubles, but only if she agreed to a sexual relationship. She said he later called her at home, drove by her house, and left his personal card at her home with a request that she contact him.
If the Judicial Standards Commission makes a finding against Hicks, it could hand down punishment ranging from reprimand to removal from office.
A telephone message left for a Gary Hicks in Libby on Sunday was not immediately returned.
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