A 72-year-old Bigfork man will stand trial for felony sexual assault in January.
George Wilcoxen was accused of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl in 2013 and had pleaded guilty by way of Alford earlier this year as part of a binding plea agreement. Wilcoxen was to be sentenced on Aug. 30.
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.
Moments into Wilcoxen’s sentencing hearing Thursday, Judge Heidi Ulbricht informed the court that she would be rejecting the binding plea agreement and that the defendant could withdraw his plea. Wilcoxen left the room to meet with his attorney, Peter Leander, and five minutes later they returned to inform the court that they would withdraw the Alford plea. Ulbricht then set the case to go to trial in January 2018.
Wilcoxen has maintained his innocence and earlier this year 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.
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.
A prominent community member in Bigfork, Wilcoxen has volunteered for community events over the years, including dressing as Santa Claus during the holidays.
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