A Hennepin County jury on Thursday found an off-duty Minneapolis police officer guilty of sexually assaulting a 39-year-old woman after a night of drinking.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about seven hours over two days before convicting Thomas Tichich of two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Tichich, 49, did not visibly react as Judge Tamara Garcia read the verdict. He looked away from the jurors as Garcia thanked and excused them. A source familiar with the case said Tichich was fired Thursday. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Tichich is no longer with the department, but did not elaborate.
Garcia said the conviction calls for four years in prison under state guidelines. She ordered a pre-sentence investigation, including a psychosexual evaluation. Sentencing is scheduled for May 30.
Tichich's attorney, Peter Wold, asked that Tichich remain free before sentencing but Garcia denied the request, and Hennepin County deputies took Tichich into custody.
Afterward, Wold said via text message that he was "stunned" by the verdict, adding that there was "zero evidence of penetration," referring to accusations Tichich had engaged in oral sex with the sleeping woman, which Tichich denied.
However, County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a post-trial news conference Thursday, there was "evidence of DNA all over her mouth," a reference to DNA residue associated with Tichich on the woman's face.
"We take no joy" in the conviction, Freeman said. "We did our job and the jury did their job and that is how the system is supposed to work." He said his office will ask the judge give Tichich the full four-year sentence.
Prosecutors alleged that in the early-morning hours of Dec. 15, 2016, Tichich forced himself on the 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.
Tichich, a 12-year veteran of the department, testified Tuesday that the sex was consensual, the drunken woman led him on by groping him and that he ran from the house only when her friend began screaming at him. The sharply divergent accounts defined Tichich's two-week trial.
Prosecutors said that after a night of drinking, all three spent the night at the victim's friend's house in northeast Minneapolis. The friend went to her upstairs bedroom and told Tichich and the victim to sleep on separate couches downstairs.
The friend said that she rejected two efforts by Tichich to have sex with her, then went downstairs and saw Tichich standing naked over the victim, his body close to the victim's mouth. She got out her phone and took two photos of him from behind and called 911.
Arradondo issued a statement after the verdict: "I respect the judicial process and the decision made by the jury. Thomas Tichich's conduct is more than concerning and should not be taken as a reflection of a department full of dedicated and professional officers who rely upon trust, accountability and professional service to the citizens of Minneapolis for its effectiveness."