A Wide Net

Political consultant and North Salinas High School coach John Fickas in court for a pretrial hearing before Monterey County Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler raised his bail to $1.5 million.

John Fickas, the political consultant and former North Salinas High School athletic coach who in July was charged with drugging and raping two women, was taken into custody on Friday during a bail hearing as prosecutors added new charges and new victims to their case.

Deputy District Attorney Elaine McCleaf told Monterey County Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler that Fickas used his position as a coach to gain access to his alleged victims, ply them with alcohol and groomed them based on their vulnerability. 

In all, Fickas now faces 14 counts that span six years starting in 2009 and most all of those charges follow a theme: that Fickas used drugs to incapacitate his alleged victims before raping or sodomizing them.

One of the new counts alleges that on or between October 2009 and October 2010, Fickas contacted a boy with the intent to commit a sexual offense. 

During the brief hearing, McCleaf asked Butler to raise Fickas’ bail from $400,000 to $2 million. While Butler said she could order him into custody and hold him on no bail, she instead would raise the bail to $1.5 million.

It’s an amount that Fickas’ attorney Miguel Hernandez says there’s no way his client can pay.

Hernandez told the judge his client stands 5’9”, weighs 450 lbs., has a torn meniscus, is pre-diabetic and has had a heart attack. “The jail will have a very difficult time handling him,” he said. He told Butler his client was to undergo cardiac tests next week and asked her to allow Fickas to remain free on GPS monitoring. 

As bailiffs took him into custody, Fickas looked back at his family in the courtroom. 

Outside of court, Hernandez told reporters Fickas “has a hard time getting around, as you can see.

”Our jail has had a history of losing inmates and I’ve personally lost two clients in the past, unnecessarily because they did not take care of them well,” Hernandez said. “I’m concerned.”

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Fickas will return to court on Sept. 4 for a hearing, with his preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 6. Hernandez says he’ll be ready to proceed with the prelim on that date. 

“There’s a lot of hearsay and a lot of words being passed around. We’re doing the best we can under the sensationalism that has been given to this case, so here we are,” Hernandez says.

Agents from the FBI’s Oakland field office have also taken an interest in Fickas, questioning two people on the Central Coast about Fickas’ political work and the money that flows in and out of local politics. Salinas police confirmed that the FBI reached out to them to inquire about the rape case, then told them they weren’t interested in the sex assault charges but would be coming to town to interview potential witnesses.  

“We’re doing our own independent investigation and they’re doing their own independent investigation,” Salinas Police Sgt. Danny Warner says. “They wanted to know what we were investigating and what we had, but as you can imagine, they’re very tight-lipped about their interest.”

According to one of the people the FBI interviewed who spoke to the Weekly on the condition that their name not be made public, the agents’ questions focused entirely on money – how cash was used in local elections and how Fickas moved money around. A second person interviewed by the FBI tells the Weekly the agents asked them not to speak about their interview.

“It was all about the cash,” says the first source, whom the FBI interviewed on July 17. “They had no interest in the (rape) stuff. They kept mentioning he’s been observed walking around with stacks of cash.”

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