As part of a plea bargain offered by the district attorney’s office, Rickman agreed to a sentence of 15 years to life, of which he will serve no less than 15 years.
Just before the start of his preliminary hearing, defense attorney James Fonda told Judge Ron Northup his client wished to withdraw his previous plea of not guilty. He said Rickman agreed to admit his guilt in one of the seven criminal counts he faced, a sex crime with a child 10 years old or younger, and the other charges would be dropped.
Northup explained to Rickman that his admission of guilt would result in him serving 15 years in prison, facing the possibility of 20 years on parole if he were approved by a parole board after his sentence. He must also pay restitution to the 7-year-old victim and register as a sex offender upon his release. A strike will be added to his record, and if he should get a second strike based on a sexual act with a child, he would serve 25 years to life. Rickman said he understood the proceedings.
According to the court records, Rickman, who is not related to the Tracy city councilman, committed the crime between Jan. 1 and June 22 this year.
Tracy police became aware of the molestation June 20, when a woman called to report that her 7-year-old daughter had told her their church pastor had the girl use a vibrator when he drove her home from school. Rickman is the founder and senior pastor at the First Anointing Faith International Christian Church in Tracy.
Rickman told court officials that he agreed to waive time for his sentencing, and Northup set his sentence hearing for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 3 in Manteca Superior Court.
Following the proceedings, Deputy District Attorney Elton Grau said the bargain Rickman accepted was more severe than prosecutors’ first offer, of 24 years in state prison. He said Rickman will be required to meet with a parole board each year to see if he could be released after his initial 15 years.
“I’m satisfied with the outcome,” Grau said. “There wasn’t an issue in the case; the man admitted to the crime.”
During the proceedings, Grau told Northup the victim and her family might wish to address the court at Rickman’s sentencing. He hasn’t discussed the specifics with the family, he said, but “it’s all part of the healing process to say something to the person who did these terrible crimes.”
Tracy police Detective Gary Castillo said Rickman confessed to the oral copulation following his arrest June 23. He said Rickman talked with officers about many different things, but he definitely confessed to oral copulation at the beginning of the police investigation.
“I’m pleased at the outcome,” Castillo said. “He admitted his guilt, and he doesn’t have to put the family through any more.”
Fonda declined to comment on the outcome of the case after he talked with a group of Rickman’s supporters, who were in the courtroom during the hearing.