A former Catholic clergyman — Thomas E. Ericksen, 71, who served in the early 1980s as the parish priest in the Village of Winter and prior to that as the hospital chaplain in the City of Merrill in Lincoln County — was found guilty of first degree sexual assault against a child and another second degree sexual assault, also against a child.
During the plea hearing on Tuesday, June 11, Ashland County Circuit Judge Kelly McKnight accepted Ericksen’s “no contest” pleas.
McKnight said Erickson would be sentenced under state statute that was in effect between 1982-83 when the offenses were committed.
The judge noted the maximum sentence for the first-degree sexual assault had been 20 years and 10 years for the second-degree charge, but there was no minimum sentence.
And at the request of Sawyer County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Marcoux, a $500,000 cash bond against Ericksen, which Ericksen had not been able to raise confining him to the Sawyer County jail, was revoked. In ordering the revocation, McKnight said Ericksen no longer “enjoyed the presumption of innocence.”
The judge began a series of questions to determine if Ericksen understood the legal consequences of a no contest plea. Ericksen initially responded, “I guess so your honor.”
McKnight said the question was a yes or no question and then Ericksen responded, “Yes, your honor.”
As part of a plea agreement with the state, two other charges — both second-degree sexual assault/unconscious victim — will be dismissed but read in for sentencing.
In addition, Ericksen must provide “factual admission” to two other “uncharged counts” from Lincoln County that will be read in for sentencing.
McKnight asked Ericksen if had read the complaint of the first-and second-degree charges and if the substance of the allegations in both were true. Ericksen said they were true.
McKnight also asked Ericksen if he agreed the allegations of the two uncharged offenses from Lincoln County were also true.
“I don’t remember,” said Ericksen, “but these guys are not liars, so I don’t doubt that.”
McKnight asked Ericksen’s public defender Ryan Reid and Marcoux if Ericksen’s response concerning the uncharged Lincoln County offenses was sufficient for an admission and both agreed it was.
McKnight ordered a presentence investigation (PSI) with the Department of Correction for sentencing at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30.
History of offenses
The first four counts against Ericksen stem from a period when he served as parish priest in Winter from 1982-1983.
The first-degree charge is for the sexual assault of a boy under the age of 12 from June 1, 1982 through April 1, 1983.
The second-degree charge is for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy on Sept. 17, 1982.
One of the dismissed second-degree felony charges concerns an unconscious teenage boy who had consumed alcohol on Feb. 4, 1983. The second dismissed charge concerns an unconscious victim that occurred in Winter in November 1982.
Two other men have also alleged Ericksen inappropriately fondled them in 1982 while they were both under the age of 12 and patients at Holy Cross Hospital in Merrill.