Two sharply divergent accounts of a sexual encounter defined the sexual assault trial of an off-duty Minneapolis police officer, which is now under a jury’s deliberation.
County prosecutors say Thomas Tichich committed sexual assault on a December night in 2016, forcing himself on a drunken woman who had passed out at her friend’s house in northeast Minneapolis. When discovered by the friend, who photographed him standing naked over the inebriated woman, Tichich fled barefoot to his car.
But Tichich, who is on administrative leave, testified Tuesday that the sex was consensual, the drunken woman led him on by groping him and that he only ran from the house when her friend began screaming at him.
Tichich, 49, is charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted sexual assault for assaulting an impaired, helpless person. Jurors began deliberations Wednesday.
The alleged victim, 39, testified last week that she never had any interest in Tichich. Although she remembered meeting Tichich in the bar, she said she had no memory of sexual contact, forced or otherwise, and was surprised when her friend showed her the naked photos of him.
The woman’s incapacitation was underscored by testimony and body camera video from a Minneapolis police sergeant sent to the house after a 911 call by the woman’s friend. Carrying a flashlight, the officer can be seen applying pressure to the woman’s neck to wake her up.
Asked by prosecutor Cheri Townsend if she had given consent to sexual contact with Tichich, she answered, “No.”
Tichich has been a police officer for the department for 12 years.
On the night of Dec. 14-15, the alleged victim said she was drinking with her friend at the Moose bar and was joined there by Tichich and his police partner, Al Williams. The woman, her friend and Tichich went to another bar, and at bar closing her friend suggested all three return to her house in northeast Minneapolis, because she thought they were all too drunk to be driving any distance.
Back at the house, the friend said the alleged victim and Tichich could each sleep on separate couches downstairs, while the friend went up to her bedroom, rejecting an attempt by Tichich to enter her bedroom. Shortly after 3 a.m., the friend woke up to find Tichich in bed with her. She kicked him out, then decided to barricade herself, going into her daughter’s room and putting a fan against the door.
The friend went downstairs a few minutes later to get a glass of water, and found Tichich standing naked over her friend lying on the couch, trying to have oral sex with her.
She ordered him out of the house and called St. Paul police because she did not want to tell Minneapolis police what happened. She was transferred to the Minneapolis police department. Tichich was gone by the time officers got there, but his boots were out in the back lawn, thrown there by the friend, and one of his socks was found upstairs. One of the leggings of the alleged victim’s pants had been pulled off, and Tichich’s DNA residue was found on her person.
Tichich testified that he thought the invitation to the woman’s house was an invitation to have sex with the friend, even if she had told him months before she was not interested. He said he had seven or eight Coors Lights.
He admitted going into the woman’s bedroom, then leaving when he was ordered out, and going downstairs — where he said he and the alleged victim began kissing and she groped him sexually — and was surprised when the friend showed up and started yelling.
Asked by his attorney, Peter Wold, if he had assaulted the woman, he said, “I did not.”
Assistant County Attorney Patrick Lofton expressed doubts that Tichich could have had consensual sex with the woman, who was described by her friend as being very drunk. Lofton told Tichich that he was caught trying to have oral sex with the woman.
“That’s completely false,” Tichich said, adding that he did not hear that the alleged victim’s friend had called 911. “I had no idea the police were coming,” he said.