Jury convicts Minneapolis police officer of sexual assault

Thursday,

A Hennepin County District Court jury Thursday found a Minneapolis police officer guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct-physically helpless and attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct-physically helpless. The jury deliberated for close to seven hours.

Officer Thomas Tichich, 49, who had been free on bail, was immediately taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies. He will be sentenced May 30 and the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines recommend 48 months in prison.

“We take no joy in this,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a news conference following the verdict. “We did our job, the jury did its job and that’s how it’s supposed to work. In this case, I have no doubt that the citizens of Hennepin County and the fine men and women of the Minneapolis Police Department would all agree that they do not want someone on the police force who would sexually assault a woman who was passed out on a friend’s couch.”

During the eight day trial, witnesses for the prosecution laid out the following events: On the night of Dec. 14, 2016, the 39-year-old victim was out drinking and at some point called a girlfriend to join her and act as her wingman.

“She was a true wingman and thank God for that,” assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton said in his closing statement.

One of the people drinking with the victim and her friend was Tichich. As bar closing approached, the friend thought the victim was too drunk to drive home and Tichich was too drunk to drive to his Plymouth home, so the friend allowed them to come to her nearby home in Northeast Minneapolis.

Eventually, the victim passed out on one couch and her friend instructed Tichich to sleep on a separate couch. She then went upstairs to her bedroom and went to sleep. However, sometime after 3 a.m., Tichich climbed into bed with the friend and indicated he wanted to have sex with her. She told him to get out of her room and go down to the couch. She later found his pants on her bedroom floor.

A short time later, the friend went downstairs to kick Tichich out of the house and found him naked standing next to her sleeping friend and thrusting his penis in her mouth. The friend took two photos and yelled at Tichich to get out. He ran barefoot and only partially dressed out to his car and left before police arrived.

Her friend called for police about 20 minutes later and when officers arrived, they had trouble rousing the victim who was passed out. In fact, toxicology tests later indicated that she probably had a blood-alcohol level of between .16 and .26, well above the legal limit for driving.

The victim had no recollection of what happened, but did go to the hospital for a sexual assault exam. There, Tichich’s DNA was found in the area around the victim’s lips, corroborating what her friend saw.

Tichich, in his testimony, said the sex was consensual, that the victim was awake and was touching him sexually.

However, in his closing, Lofton noted that the victim never told anyone, including the first officers on the scene, that she had consensual sex with Tichich. Lofton said Tichich could have told the friend it was consensual, but instead, he fled into the cold when she said she would call police.