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Oconomowoc school volunteer sentenced to 6 years in prison for fondling student

Anthony R. Pico, a former parent volunteer at Summit Elementary School in Oconomowoc, was sentenced on Feb. 25 to six years imprisonment and 10 years extended supervision by Judge William J. Domina for inappropriately touching an 8-year-old student at the school.

Pico, 42, was charged on April 27, 2012 in Waukesha County Circuit Court with first degree sexual assault and was found guilty by a jury for said offense on Dec. 19, 2012. The defendant said he will be appealing the jury’s decision. The maximum prison sentence for first degree sexual assault is 60 years.

Approximately 30 people were in attendance for the sentencing, including Pico’s wife of 16 years Michelle Pico, his sister-in-law Debra Spang and family friend Christopher George. All three spoke in Pico’s defense, describing him as a loving father and husband who, in the words of his wife, “is like a light switch,” always happy and full of humor.

“We just so desperately need the light of my husband in our lives,” she tearfully told the judge.

George, who said he has been a friend of the family for five years, said he respected the way the way Michelle and Anthony Pico raised their children and the love they showed each other.
“I would still trust my two daughters, who are the jewels of my life, with him and his wife,” he said.

Pico’s brother, in a letter to the judge, wrote that Pico was “a different person” after suffering a significant head injury in a 1992 motorcycle accident. He was naive and had an innocent mind set. His wife agreed, saying that Pico did not always think things through.
Pico, in his own defense, said he was, “absolutely crushed” about making the child feel uncomfortable, but denied he intentionally touched her inappropriately.

“I feel regret that my unthinking actions have hurt so many people, and I am deeply sorry,” he said.

According to the criminal complaint, City of Oconomowoc police were dispatched to Summit Elementary School, 1680 East Valley Rd. in Oconomowoc, on April 20, 2012 regarding the report of a sexual assault of a child.

Principal Robin Wilson told police that Pico volunteered at the school every Friday, alternating between classrooms. During the incident in question, Pico was volunteering in his daughter’s class.

Guidance counselor Jodie Jens told police that she spoke to the victim, who will not be identified to protect the girl and her family. She said the girl told her that Pico was stroking her leg and touched her vagina while they practiced reading together. The girl had told her parents the night following the incident that Pico had touched her inappropriately, but she felt bad reporting it because she was friend’s with Pico’s daughter.

The girl was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Resources and Empowerment Center in Waukesha. The girl said that Pico had chosen to read with her, and while they read together, Pico began rubbing her leg and stuck his hand down her pants. She "twitched" and he said he was sorry, but the girl did not feel he was being sincere because he was smiling. He then stuck his hands down her pants, underneath her underwear, and began rubbing her vagina.

Pico agreed to speak to police regarding the incident. He said that the girl had told him to tickle her, so he did. He knew it was inappropriate, but maintained that he only tickled her leg, knee and thigh.

“Her shirt went up and my hand went along the edge, but I didn’t go in,” he allegedly told police. “I know, because I’m not like that, I don’t do that to little kids, I have a daughter.”

Police asked him if his hand went into her underwear. He said that it may have but he stopped.

Police told him they did not believe she asked him to tickle her, and he allegedly changed his statement, saying that her leg rubbed against his leg and he decided to tickle her. He said his hand may have gone up her leg, “a little bit,” and while bringing his hand back down it went under her pants by mistake. He said he did not know why he did it, was felt terrible about it.

When asked by police if an incident like that had occurred before, he said that in 1994 or 1995 he was dressed as a Disney character at Magic Mountain in California and he was accused of pulling on a girl’s bra straps.

According to documents filed by the defense, Pico was charged in California in 1994 with misdemeanor annoying or molesting a child under 18 and sexual battery, but the charges resulted in a plea deal.

It was not clear if Pico admitted guilt and because the incident took place so long ago, a criminal report could not be readily obtained.

Pico was represented by Jonathan Lavoy. Lavoy requested Pico be sentenced to extended supervision with sex offender treatment, arguing that Pico, a stay-at-home dad, was a wonderful father to his two children and while his behavior during the incident was inexplicable, it was a one-time event and was not preplanned.

Prosecutor Debra Blasius requested that the defendant be imprisoned for eight years, arguing that he was “brazen” to touch the girl in a classroom and abused his position of trust, as both a school volunteer and as the father of the girl’s best friend.

Blasius said that the victim was “full of empathy and understanding,” and was originally reluctant to report the crime because she did not want to hurt her friend’s family.

“Only Mr. Pico put himself into this situation,” she told the judge. “He certainly did not take into account how this would affect the girl, the girl’s family or his own family.”

Domina said he took into consideration several factors in deciding the sentence, including the support of Pico’s family and friends, his employment history, prior violations and medical history.

He said he had trouble understanding who Pico was, describing him as an “enigma.”

"Either what [the victim] reported is untrue, or there are two sides to you,” Domina told Pico.

Domina said that he absolutely believed the victim’s testimony about what occurred and was “offended” that Pico did not have the courage to acknowledge what he did.

“You are, in essence, calling her a liar by not admitting what you did,” he said.

He gave credit to Pico for raising two beautiful children, holding up a picture of the family to illustrate his point, but Domina said he did not believe that Pico understood the impact the incident had on the victim or the victim’s family.

He said he did not think Pico would commit more crimes in the future, but “I don’t think anyone in the courtroom would have suspected him of this incident to begin with.”

While Pico’s wife cried, Domina sentenced Pico to six years imprisonment and 10 years extended supervision following his release. He was ordered to participate in all treatment programs recommended for him, including sex offender treatment. He is to have no contact with the victim or her family and he may not possess pornographic material, alcohol or drugs without a valid prescription. He may only use a computer for employment purposes and must be supervised by the employer during use.

He can have contact with his family, including his children, while incarcerated, but only in a supervised setting.

The defense’s request that the sentence be stayed pending an appeal was denied. The prosecution argued that, given the significant time of imprisonment, Pico was a flight risk.

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