sports journalist

RYAN S. CLARK

By RYAN S. CLARK

STAFF WRITER

 

Two families had differing reasons for shedding tears Thursday but their emotions were related.

 

The families of two victims cried and hugged out of joy Thursday.

 

The cries from the family of Philman H. Bickel, 57, were borne of sadness in Wayne County Superior Court 2 as the defendant was found guilty on felony child molestation and sexual misconduct charges.

 

Bickel will be sentenced March 19 in Superior Court 2, Judge Gregory Horn said. He said Bickel would be held in the Wayne County Jail until his sentencing.

 

The 12-person jury reached a verdict at 2 p.m., after their deliberations began at 10:25 a.m.

 

"They can't do this to him," said one of Bickel's family members while the verdict was being read.

 

Bickel, who was dressed in a black suit, showed little emotion when he learned of the jury's decision. Wayne County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Zwickey and Sheriff Matt Strittmatter were among the 20 people in attendance when the verdict was delivered.

 

"Quite frankly I feel that justice has been done here today," said William Hoelscher, Wayne County deputy prosecutor. "I was confident in what the jury would do because they had common sense."

 

Hoelscher said had it not been for the statute of limitations, there would have been more victims beyond the two female minors.

 

He said the prosecutor's office during its investigation spoke with 15 people, nine of whom claimed to have been molested by Bickel.

 

Richmond public defender Eric S. Crockett called the verdict "unfortunate."

 

"It's unfortunate but at the same time they had 12 people put their minds together," he said. "The state's case was more persuasive than ours and if the verdict had been different I am sure (Hoelscher) would be saying the same thing I am."

 

After the hearing, Hoelscher and Crockett shook hands and Crockett was commended for his work by two people minutes after the trial ended.

 

Thursday's trial activity began with Hoelscher's 53-minute closing argument to the jury.

 

He told the 12-person jury, "You are here to make a decision that is made every day in courts across the country."

 

He focused on the victims and their eyewitness testimony.

 

"You have all you need to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if you believe the victims," Hoelscher told the jury while pointing at Bickel.

 

"This is the man who groomed them to be victims. We want you to be fair but we want you to be fair to the victims and to protect our society."

 

Crockett in his closing asked the jury to weigh the credibility of the witnesses.

 

He also addressed evidence alleging that Bickel had bought the girls gifts after they had sexual intercourse.

 

"(Bickel) made under $40,000 and did not have enough money to do all that," Crockett said.

 

Crockett also attacked the reliability of what police considered as evidence in 2006 when they executed a search warrant at Bickel's home. Authorities found a window covered with a dark blanket, stuffed children's toys and photos of cartoon characters on the wall, according to a probable cause affidavit.

 

Crockett argued that his client had the blanket in the room because he could not sleep well when there was light in the room.

 

Hoelscher rebutted that point, calling it "a smoke screen defense. "

 

"Phil does not sleep well at night," he asked, rhetorically. "I don't doubt that and I wonder why?"

57-year-old convicted of felony molestation, sexual misconduct

Emotional families hear guilty verdict

News  |  Feb. 29, 2008  |  Page 1A

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