A Benton County judge issued a nationwide arrest warrant for a 79-year-old Montana man after he ran from court just before a jury found him guilty of three sex crimes.
William George Nicol was told by his attorney that he likely was going to be convicted based on a question the jurors sent to the judge.
Nicol had been out of custody on $10,000 bail but if convicted would have been jailed immediately.
It was the third sex case in two years in Benton County where the defendant ran off just before or during his trial. The other two still have not been captured and may have left the country.
On Friday, Nicol reportedly told his lawyer Jim Egan that he was going to use the restroom during a recess in the case, but instead he fled from the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick.
A security officer told Judge Jackie Shea Brown that a man matching Nicol’s description was seen leaving the courthouse, first walking and then running toward the parking lot.
Egan couldn’t reach his client by phone, and the judge issued the warrant, ordering him to be held without bail when he’s found.
Nicol was not in the courtroom when he was convicted of two counts of first-degree child rape and one count of first-degree child molestation.
The charges all include the aggravating circumstance that he was in a position of trust when he sexually assaulted a grade-school boy for at least four years.
Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra said the U.S. Marshals Service is helping the Benton County Sheriff’s Office track him down.
She also notified law enforcement in Sanders County, Mont., in case Nicol returns to his home in Plains.
Petra also handled the two previous sex offender cases in which the men fled.
Khalid A. Fathey, 49, reportedly boarded a flight for the United Arab Emirates on July 23, two days before he was to stand trial on three charges of raping and molesting a grade-school girl. He had been free on his personal recognizance.
Alexander Barrett Callahan, now 27, was expected to plead guilty the morning his trial was to start on Oct. 27, 2014. He was accused of raping and molesting a young girl.
Callahan allegedly borrowed his brother’s car with plans to return it by Monday morning, but he was never seen again. He had been out of jail after posting bond on $50,000.
Both Fathey and Callahan have active nationwide warrants. They also are charged with bail jumping.
Callahan also is charged with taking a vehicle without permission.
Petra has yet to file a bail jumping charge against Nicol. He is facing up to 18 years in prison for the sex crimes. However, Petra said she intends to recommend a longer sentence because of the aggravating circumstances.
Court documents say the boy told a relative in 2015 that he had been sexually abused by Nicol for several years.
Nicol denied the allegations at the trial, claiming that the boy had been put up to lying.
The trial started Oct. 17 and the jurors began deliberating just before lunch Friday. At about 4 p.m., the jury sent a written question to Judge Shea Brown: “Does each count of rape need to be in a different location or just that the victim was raped multiple times?”
Shea Brown read to the question to the prosecution and defense in court, then wrote back that the jurors needed to re-read their instructions and continue deliberations.
The jury had a verdict by 4:30 p.m. but Nicol was a no-show when court went back into session at 4:43 p.m.
If somebody sees Nicol, Fathey or Callahan in the Tri-Cities, they are asked to call Benton County dispatch at 509-628-0333.
People who have information to pass on about Nicol also can call the sheriff’s office at 509-735-6555.
Information on Fathey’s case can be directed to the Kennewick Police Department at 509-585-4208.
Callahan’s case is being handled by the Richland Police Department at 509-942-7340.
Tips also can be sent to the U.S. Marshals Service, firstname.lastname@example.org.