John Fickas, a political consultant, coach at North Salinas High School and a former board member of the Santa Rita Union School District, was arrested Thursday on charges that he raped and sodomized drugged and incapacitated victims.
According to the complaint filed in Monterey County Superior Court, Fickas is accused of assaulting two separate victims. One attack allegedly happened in 2009. The other allegedly happened in 2015, on election night when he was running for a seat on the Salinas Union High School District board.
He faces six charges in all: two counts each of rape by use of drugs and rape of an unconscious person; sodomy of an unconscious person; and sodomy by use of anesthesia or a controlled substance.
Outside of court today, prosecutor Elaine McCleaf told several reporters one of the alleged victims was under the age of 18 at the time of the assault. The charges involving that victim were not filed as child molestation counts because while she was a minor, she was over the age of 14.
McCleaf declined further comment, saying she wanted to protect the victims and the integrity of the case.
Fickas was arrested July 11 and was being held in Monterey County Jail on $400,000 bail. He posted bail the morning of July 12 and was released from custody; he's due to appear in court for arraignment on July 22.
Fickas has coached the girls' junior varsity field hockey team and also is the varsity shot put coach for the track and field team at North Salinas High School.
SUHSD spokesman Marcos Cabrera issued a statement in which Fickas is described as a "walk on, off-campus" coach, meaning he's not employed by the school or district.
"We are shocked to learn about the recent arrest of one of our walk on, off-campus coaches. Certainly this is a disturbing set of allegations and as we learn more about the detail we will address the matter consistent with the law and our policies. At this time it is an ongoing investigation and we are cooperating with law enforcement officials," the statement reads.
"The safety and security of our students are a priority," the statement continues. "Thus, once we were notified of the investigation we placed this coach on administrative leave, and as a result, he was directed to have no contact with any Salinas Union High School District student. We must respect the rights to privacy and due process of everyone involved, and the District cannot comment further on personnel matters or student information. As law enforcement moves forward we will take the appropriate disciplinary actions which may include termination of this coach. We appreciate the community's understanding and support as we work through this unfortunate situation."
A source who has worked within the district and agreed to speak to the Weekly under anonymity says that several years ago, they warned the school district that Fickas had been harassing female students; the source says they were admonished to keep out of it. It appears no action was ever taken against him.
Cabrera says the district would not respond to any questions beyond the statement he issued.
Fickas is listed on the website of PJF Communications, a Salinas-based political consultancy, as a project manager and consultant who provides clients with precinct walkers, phone bankers and strategy to target absentee voters during election seasons. "During a campaign in Salinas, California in 2010, John Fickas organized over 100 walkers and phone bankers in less than 48 hours," the website states.
Among the campaigns he worked for: Scott Davis' successful campaign for Salinas City Council and Steve Bernal's successful campaign for sheriff. He's also listed as a campaign manager for one of the city of Salinas' tax measures.
According to Smartvoter.com, he's also worked on the campaigns of Mike Kanalakis for county sheriff, Butch Lindley for Monterey County supervisor, Abel Maldonado for state senate and Jeff Denham for state senate.
Fickas also has made campaign contributions to Salinas Councilman Steve McShane and is listed as a sponsor for one of county Supervisor Luis Alejo's fundraising events.
Fickas' brother, Paul, is a vice president at PJF. Paul Fickas also formed the political consultancy California Alliance Group with former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. The group counts Tom Torlakson, former state superintendent of public education, as a consultant.
This isn't the only criminal case currently lodged against John Fickas. He is in the middle of a felony case filed in October 2018 that alleges he abused rabbits. He is listed as a breeder, along with his brother, of rabbits for show and sale. Together, the brothers run a company called Salad Bowl Rabbitry.