Former Buckland chief pleads not guilty to new sexual assault charges

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 10-29-2021 7:06 PM

GREENFIELD — The former Buckland police chief facing a sexual assault charge in Northampton District Court pleaded not guilty in Greenfield District Court on Friday to three additional counts of the same charge, indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over.

James T. Hicks, 55, of Buckland, was released on personal recognizance and is due back in Greenfield for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 4. He was ordered by Judge Patrick Sabbs to have no contact with any of the alleged victims.

On Aug. 26, 2019, Hicks pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to one count of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over, and was released on personal recognizance. The case had been transferred from Greenfield District Court.

Earlier on Friday, a judge at Northampton District Court allowed the state’s motion to get copies of and inspect records. Another motion hearing is set for Dec. 16.

According to Laurie Loisel, communication and outreach director with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, her office asked the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office to handle these cases to avoid any conflict of interest, due to the fact that Hicks had worked for three decades in law enforcement in Franklin County.

It appears the three new charges will be tried in Greenfield District Court, as Hicks resigned from the Buckland Police Department on Oct. 18. He had retired as chief on Sept. 9 and become an auxiliary officer, which Buckland Selectboard Chair Zachary Turner said is a position that handles traffic and parade detail but does not involve a service firearm and makes no arrests. However, Hicks then left this position, telling Acting Chief Kurt Gilmore in a resignation email that he felt it would be best if he stepped aside due to the lawsuit. He had reportedly been with the department about 32 years.

Hicks is being represented by attorney Jeffrey Brown, who did not return a request for comment. The case is being prosecuted by Courtney Sans, with the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office.

According to a police arrest narrative filed by Sgt. Joseph J. Petty, of the Massachusetts State Police, he and Trooper Adam Cardin met with a Buckland woman on Oct. 5 who told them about incidents in which Hicks allegedly touched her inappropriately.

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The woman told them that on Aug. 16, 2020, Hicks responded to her residence after she called 911 when her male roommate started throwing items and scaring her. She stated Hicks showed up in full police uniform and separated the two, speaking with the roommate first before telling the woman there wasn’t much to do in regards to the incident. The woman reportedly told troopers that Hicks then sat next to her on a bench on a back patio and started kissing her. According to the police narrative, she said she considered Hicks attractive but thought a police chief should not do that.

According to the narrative, the woman also told troopers that Hicks reached his hand down her pants. The woman told troopers that Hicks left when her roommate opened the back door and asked what the two were doing. She reported she had been drinking beer as she does every night, but did not consider herself intoxicated. She stated this was the first time she had met Hicks.

Petty confirmed with Shelburne Control dispatchers that Hicks was the only officer to respond to that residence at 11:27 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2020.

The woman also reported to troopers a separate incident, which allegedly occurred Aug. 19, 2021 when she reported that her roommate was being loud and problematic. According to the police narrative, she claims Hicks showed up in full uniform, grabbed her hand and placed it on his crotch. The woman said she pushed Hicks’ chest with her other hand and he backed off before doing it a second time.

According to the police narrative, the woman reported a third incident in which she was parked at a Greenfield gas station scratching lottery tickets on Oct. 20, 2020, when Hicks allegedly opened the passenger door and sat inside. She told troopers that Hicks began touching her and reached his hand under her shirt. He then allegedly said, “I see your bedroom light on, call me after 9:30.”

The woman told troopers no physical interaction with Hicks was consensual. She said she did not report the incidents because Hicks was the police chief in a small town and she was scared. She also said she had an expired registration on her vehicle and did not want to create an issue.

The woman allegedly showed Petty text messages she sent to people after the incidents and some descriptions of what she told people had happened. There are no surveillance cameras at that particular Greenfield gas station, Petty reported.

Petty reports that on Oct. 8, 2021, Assistant District Attorney Courtney Sans told him about another possible victim. Petty reports he met with this woman, who claimed Hicks assaulted her on Dec. 27, 2018. This woman explained she was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband, who she was separated from but living with to co-parent their children. An emergency restraining order was issued by the court against the ex-husband and Hicks responded to the residence to serve the order and have him leave the premises.

According to the police narrative, this woman stated she drove to the residence, where Hicks was waiting outside for her, dressed in full police uniform. Hicks reportedly told her to lead him into the residence, which the report describes as having an entrance consisting of a front door that leads to a hallway/mudroom and then a door into the living space. This woman told troopers that Hicks slapped and grabbed her buttocks long enough for her to turn around and look at him before he let go. He allegedly said, “Sorry, tight space.”

This woman reportedly told troopers she was so stressed about her living situation that she wanted to forget the incident, but that it left her feeling humiliated, demoralized and horrified. She stated she decided to come forward after seeing a Facebook comment from the other woman and realizing she was not the only victim.

Petty confirmed with Shelburne Control dispatchers that Hicks responded to that call at 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 27, 2018. He reports he made several calls to Hicks in hopes of speaking with him about the incident, but was unsuccessful.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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