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Originally published: 2012-08-28 18:19:52
Last modified: 2012-08-28 18:21:13

Accused rapist accepts plea bargain

Eight years after he was charged with more than 50 counts of statutory rape and sexual offenses involving minors, Keith Clint Hicks of Sugar Grove has finally seen his day in court.

Hicks, now 50, was arrested March 11, 2004, after a teenage acquaintance reported the alleged offenses to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.

In an indictment, Hicks was accused of coercing a 15-year-old girl to engage in sex acts with another person and taking photos of the acts. Other claims also emerged in the course of the investigation.

He faced four counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, four counts of indecent liberties with a child, 37 counts of statutory rape or sexual offenses, six counts of second-degree sexual offense and two counts of second-degree rape, according to court records.

He also was charged with possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was placed under a $6,639,900 bond, according to court records.

In the years that followed, Hicks wrote dozens of letters about his case to the Watauga Democrat, the sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office and other parties.

He expressed fears that the court system and other officials were conspiring against him. He also disapproved of the services of his appointed attorneys, rejecting several during his time behind bars.

In one letter dated January 2005, Hicks wrote, “I love (alleged victim) with all my heart and soul and that is why I am here. I will become a martyr for (alleged victim) and allow you to destroy me because I love her that much.”

As a result of the letters and other behaviors, Assistant District Attorney Charles Byrd requested in May 2005 that Hicks undergo a psychiatric evaluation at Dorothea Dix Hospital to determine his capacity to proceed.

Dr. John Carbone of Dorothea Dix Hospital found in June 2005 that “at present, he is incapable of assisting in his own defense and proceeding to trial,” court documents state.

Hicks underwent several other evaluations between 2005 and 2007 and rotated among the Watauga County Detention Center, safekeeping units in the N.C. Department of Corrections, Dorothea Dix Hospital and Broughton Hospital.

During those visits, doctors diagnosed Hicks with bipolar disorder and substance abuse problems, according to court records. He was prescribed several medications to treat his diagnosed conditions.

The charges were dismissed with leave in October 2008 after the defendant was found incapable of proceeding.

At times during his pre-trial confinement, Hicks went on hunger strikes, according to his mother, Martha Hicks.

In a new evaluation conducted in November 2011, Dr. Charles Vance, a forensic psychologist at Central Regional Hospital, concurred that Hicks suffered from bipolar disorder.

Vance noted that Hicks became quite animated when talking about his court case and frustrated over its prolonged course.

“He has expressed dissatisfaction with his attorney, as he has with previous attorneys, yet this unhappiness did not appear to be grounded in delusional perceptions regarding his attorney’s role,” Vance wrote. “As such, he is felt to be adequate capable of working with his attorney ... For these reasons, we feel that Mr. Hicks can be seen as being competent."

The charges were reinstated in February 2012.

On Aug. 16, Hicks pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree sexual offense, a felony.

The district attorney’s office agreed to dismiss all other charges against him.

Judge Gary Gavenus sentenced Hicks to between eight years, four months and 10 years, nine months in prison.

He also received credit for the 3,081 days he served before trial, so Hicks has already completed the minimum outlined by his sentence.

Hicks also must pay a $1,000 fine and $9,259.50 in court and attorney fees.

Finally, the court recommended substance abuse treatment and psychiatric counseling.

Neither Hicks’s attorney, Scott Reilly of Newton, nor the district attorney’s office could be reached for comment by presstime Tuesday.