Jury returns guilty verdict in beating
A jury took less than three hours Wednesday to convict Erik R. Dickson of severely beating, tormenting and robbing a traveling real estate developer in downtown Spokane’s upscale Hotel Lusso.
Jurors convicted Dickson, 27, as charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping, second-degree theft and second-degree assault.
The jury also made a sentence-padding finding that Dickson was armed with a deadly weapon, a knife, when he kidnapped and robbed 50-year-old John W. Sieckert last October.
Sieckert operates a Boise company that develops apartment complexes in several states, and was celebrating a successful transaction when he met Dickson at the bar of the Satellite Diner downtown on the night of Oct. 21.
He said he took a liking to Dickson, who complained about difficulties in finding a job, and they talked about the possibility Sieckert might hire Dickson.
Somehow, Dickson testified, the two of them wound up at his hotel room after a final drink at a bar whose name he was too drunk to remember.
Sieckert testified that Dickson tied him up and repeatedly beat him in addition to making death threats. Sieckert suffered a fractured skull and a crushed eye socket that caused one of his eyeballs to recede 4 centimeters into his head. His mouth was split in four places, requiring 26 stitches, and four staples were needed to close a gash on the back of his head. Doctors had to implant a metal plate to repair his eye socket.
Deputy Prosecutor Andi Jakkola estimated that Dickson faces a standard range of 10 to 12 years when he is sentenced, but she hopes to add about five years by arguing that the convictions didn’t all spring from the same criminal conduct.
Superior Court Judge Robert Austin dismissed a first-degree extortion charge before the case went to the jury. Assistant Public Defender Al Rossi successfully argued that the facts didn’t fit the charge.
Dickson didn’t testify, but Rossi challenged Sieckert’s credibility and suggested in closing arguments that someone else may have committed the crime.
Sieckert acknowledged gaps in his memory and inconsistencies in statements he made to investigators while recovering from his injuries, but was adamant that it was Dickson who brutalized him.
He said Dickson not only robbed him, but forced him to say goodbye to wallet photos of his wife and children and to put the photos in his mouth. Then, Sieckert said, Dickson arranged the photos in a pool of Sieckert’s blood.
Dickson told him, “You’re never leaving here, John,” Sieckert testified.
Sieckert said he was convinced he had nothing to lose, so he hopped to the hotel door despite being bound with an appliance cord. Dickson taunted him, knocked him unconscious and tied him more thoroughly — with a belt around his neck that choked him if he moved his hands, Sieckert testified.
Finally, he said, Dickson covered his head with a blanket, threatened to kill him if he moved and pretended to leave the room. Then Dickson delivered the hardest blow yet, Sieckert told jurors.
“All of a sudden I got hit so hard my head just exploded,” he said. “I thought my eyeball had come out.”
Sieckert was rescued when he screamed for help after Dickson left the room. Jakkola said a surveillance video indicates Dickson went to a convenience store and withdrew $1,000 with Sieckert’s credit card, using a personal identification number Sieckert was forced to reveal.
Rossi’s argument that someone else may have attacked Sieckert depended heavily on Sieckert’s testimony that Dickson put on Sieckert’s pants and leather jacket, which investigators never found. Jakkola couldn’t explain why Dickson was seen and photographed in a Pittsburgh Steelers jacket before and after he allegedly donned Sieckert’s clothing, Rossi told jurors.
But Jakkola said Dickson probably put the loose-fitting Steelers jacket on over Sieckert’s jacket when he left the hotel room. She scoffed that Rossi’s theory would have required Sieckert to confuse the 5-foot-10-inch, brown-haired Dickson with 6-foot-3-inch Jared Warden, who had a maroon Mohawk haircut.
Testimony indicated that Warden and Heather Hoffmeister, acquaintances of Dickson’s who had chatted with Sieckert at the Satellite Diner, went to Sieckert’s hotel room in expectation of a party. Warden said Dickson asked him to help rob Sieckert, but he declined.
Sieckert said Dickson began his attack after Warden and Hoffmeister left.