A judge sentenced former IU student Triceten Bickford to one year on probation Monday after he pleaded guilty to drunkenly forcing a Muslim woman's head on a table and attempting to rip off her headscarf.
Bickford, 20, was arrested on several charges and faced local and federal hate crime investigations. Judge Teresa Harper dropped the charges to a single misdemeanor battery, which Bickford pleaded guilty to Monday. He was not found guilty of committing a hate crime, according to court records.
Given Bickford's lack of prior criminal history, video evidence of the brief attack and the thoroughness of the federal investigation, attorney Katharine Liell said her client was treated fairly.
“This is a typical sentence,” Liell said. “It was not a hate crime."
Bickford was initially charged with a felony-level battery after he drunkenly approached the woman and her nine-year-old daughter Oct.15, 2015, outside Sofra Cafe in Bloomington. He reportedly forced her head onto the table and attempted to take her headscarf, restricting her breathing. Witnesses claimed Bickford made statements about “white power,” killing the police and racist statements against black people.
After video surveillance of the crime was entered into court it was clear to Liell that her client had not committed a premeditated hate crime, she said. The video showed her client -- who had mixed alcohol with his anti-depressants -- walking up Walnut Street and waving his arms before the “two-to-three second” attack. The victim, Leill said, was in the "wrong place, wrong time."
In a November 2015 interview with the Indiana Daily Student, Bickford’s mother, Julie Frazier, said she expected that her son had gotten into “some kind of fight” when she heard the list of charges - intimidation, public intoxication, strangulation, illegal consumption and possession of alcohol by a minor, two counts of misdemeanor battery and one count of felony-level battery.
She remembered paying her son’s bail. Early the next morning, her phone rang.
“Mom,” Frazier’s son said to her, through tears. “There’s an article here, and it says that I did this. That I attacked this woman, and she was a Muslim, and that I tried to strangle her and all of these things.”
She told the IDS she remembered the terror in her son’s voice.
“I don’t remember any of this,” he said. “This can’t be me. They’ve got the wrong person. This can’t be me.”
Bickford’s lawyers claimed their client had suffered a mental health “crisis.” They worked with medical professionals to understand how psychological conditions and the combination of alcohol and prescribed Adderall could have driven Bickford to attack the woman.
Bickford testified Monday and said he was sorry for the attack and attributed it to alcohol combined with prescribed anti-depressants.
Bickford was an IU sophomore studying psychology before his arrest, then-IU spokesperson Mark Land said last year.
Bickford entered an open plea to the court, which meant Judge Harper was responsible for determining a sentence.
During Bickford’s testimony, prosecutor Bob Miller asked Bickford what sentence he thought he deserved, Liell said.
“I really don’t know,” Bickford replied, according to Liell.
“Have you been punished enough?” Miller asked.
“No,” Bickford said. “Not compared to the harm I caused the victim and her family and our community.”
While Judge Harper announced the sentence, Bickford, who was joined in court by his parents, leaned over to Liell, grabbed her hand and wept.
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