Man Whose Conviction Was Overturned Denies Second Child Sex Assault

Thomas Richard Nichols appeared in Flathead County District Court on Jan. 7

By Justin Franz
Thomas Nichols appears in Flathead County District Court on Jan. 7, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A Kalispell man has denied sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl less than a year after the Montana Supreme Court overturned his previous assault conviction.

Thomas Richard Nichols, 26, pleaded not guilty to sexual assault at an arraignment in Flathead County District Court on Jan. 7.

According to court documents, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a sexual assault on Dec. 2, 2015. A deputy talked to a woman who said her 5-year-old daughter had stayed at Nichols’ house on multiple occasions between June and December 2015. Following a recent visit, the young girl told her mother that Nichols had touched her in a sexual manner. The girl gave authorities the same account during a forensic interview and Nichols was arrested on Dec. 11.

If convicted, Nichols could face up to 100 years in prison. He is set to go to trial in April and remains incarcerated at the Flathead County Detention Center.

The new accusations come a year after the Montana Supreme Court overturned Nichols’ previous conviction. In early-2010, Nichols, then 20 years old, allegedly touched a 9-year-old girl in a sexual way. He was charged with sexual assault and sexual intercourse without consent and was found guilty of both at trial in December 2011. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

But in early 2015, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction arguing that jurors had heard unfairly prejudicial testimony during the trial, specifically about Nichols’ past sexual habits.

Soon after the conviction was overturned, the Flathead County Attorney’s Office again filed charges against Nichols. In June 2015, he took a deal and pleaded no contest to an amended charge of felony criminal endangerment. The second count, sexual intercourse without consent, was dropped and Nichols was given a 10-year suspended sentence to the Montana State Prison.