Former Mclaughlin Staff Member Convicted of Sexual Abuse of Juvenile Inmate
November 15, 2018
(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) On November 15, 2018, an Anchorage jury found Phillip Eugene Bigham guilty of seven counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree. The jury also convicted Bigham, 50, of solicitation and attempted escape in the fourth degree.
Bigham worked as a Juvenile Justice Officer at the McLaughlin Youth Center, a juvenile detention facility operated by the Division of Juvenile Justice. According to the evidence at trial, Bigham resigned on November 24, 2015, after he was informed that he was being removed from his supervisory position. In the weeks after Bigham left, McLaughlin staff discovered that he had secretly remained in contact with a 16 year old girl at the facility in violation of DJJ policy. Staff subsequently discovered that Bigham had written the girl letters detailing an escape plan from the facility. The girl then disclosed that Bigham had sexually abused her on seven occasions over four days in November before leaving work. McLaughlin staff contacted the Anchorage Police Department.
On December 18, APD detectives recorded a phone conversation between the victim and Bigham in which he spelled out how she could escape from McLaughlin: after promising to help hide her, he told her that he loved her and reminded her, "if anything goes down, you don't know s*#t." Bigham was arrested later that day: detectives recovered several photographs of the victim in her underwear on Bigham's home computer.
"Every child deserves to be protected from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation," said Assistant District Attorney James Klugman, who prosecuted the case. "Anyone who would prey on the innocent and vulnerable needs to understand: we do not and will not tolerate these heinous crimes. You will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will be held accountable." Klugman thanked the Anchorage Police Department's Special Victims Unit for their assistance investigating the case.
Superior Court Judge Jack Smith, who presided over the trial, scheduled Bigham's sentencing for March 14, 2019. He faces a presumptive sentence of fifty to sixty years imprisonment. Bigham, who was on electronic monitoring release during the trial, was remanded into custody following the verdict. Judge Smith ordered him to be held without bail pending sentencing.
More information about the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office is available at http://www.law.alaska.gov/department/criminal/adao.html.
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