Former Buckland police chief faces sexual assault charge

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Staff Writer
Published: 10/18/2021 5:28:08 PM

The recently retired Buckland police chief faces a sexual assault charge in Northampton District Court, and additional charges are expected.

James T. Hicks, 55, of Buckland, pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over on Aug. 26, 2019, at which time he was released on personal recognizance. But two more women have since come forward to claim Hicks violated them. The first case had been transferred from Greenfield District Court.

Hicks retired as chief on Sept. 9, following 30 years in the position, according to Town Administrator Heather Butler, who was unaware of the charge and said Hicks had retired simply because he had reached the age. Kurt Gilmore is the town’s acting police chief.

Zachary Turner, chair of the Buckland Selectboard, said Hicks now works as an auxiliary officer, meaning he handles traffic and parade detail but does not carry a service firearm and cannot make arrests. When asked why Hicks was not suspended when charges were filed, Turner said it is because “in this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty.” Turner said he is unsure if Hicks would keep his pension if convicted.

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 this case to avoid any conflict of interest, as Hicks has worked three decades in law enforcement in Franklin County.

According to a statement of probable cause filed on Aug. 16, 2018 by State Police Sgt. Thomas F. Bakey, a 37-year-old woman reported Hicks had touched her inappropriately when she visited the Buckland Police Department to report an unrelated incident of sexual harassment. She reports she had been having an ongoing issue with a neighborhood youth, who that day “made harassing comments to her, including calling out ‘nice a**.’” Bakey details in the statement that the unnamed alleged victim said Hicks wrote information onto a piece of paper and the two began to leave the station, but while walking down a short, narrow hallway, the chief allegedly put his hand between her legs from behind and touched her genitals over her pants before telling her, “‘you do have a nice a**.’”

The alleged victim said she “kind of giggled it off” and told Hicks he should not do that because he was the police chief. But Hicks allegedly just laughed and smiled, Bakey’s statement reads.

Hicks reportedly told Bakey and Trooper Geraldine Bresnahan he had brought the woman inside the station for roughly two minutes and wrote a note on a piece of paper. The chief said he and the woman talked outside for some time, and the alleged victim and two passersby later confirmed this conversation. Hicks denied making physical contact with the woman and said he did not believe they were ever within reach of each other.

According to the statement of probable cause, there is no video surveillance inside the Buckland Police Department and Bakey could not find any cameras in the immediate area outside the building. He states he believed there was probable cause to assume Hicks had committed the accused crime.

The Greenfield Recorder interviewed two other women who made similar claims and who said charges are pending.

Hicks is represented by attorney John Vigliotti, of Reardon, Joyce & Akerson in Worcester. Attempts to reach Hicks and Vigliotti were unsuccessful.

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


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