On November 8, 2019, Superior Court Judge Jack Smith sentenced Phillip Bigham to serve 57.5 years on multiple counts of Sexual Abuse of a Minor.
An Anchorage jury convicted Bigham on November 15, 2018, of seven counts of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the First Degree. The jury also convicted Bigham of attempting to aid the victim in escaping from McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage so that she could live in his garage. Assistant District Attorney Betsy Bull, who handled the sentencing in the case, asked the court to impose a sentence of 57.5 years to serve in order to recognize that Bigham abused both the authority and trust placed in him as a juvenile justice officer when he engaged in a sexual relationship with a vulnerable inmate.
For this conduct as a first-time felon, Bigham faced a sentencing range of 20 to 30 years with a maximum sentence of 99 years. Bigham will be on probation for 15 years and will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.
The Anchorage District Attorney’s Office thanks Anchorage Police Department Detective Jade Baker for the investigation that led to the convictions in this case and to the victim for the courage to come forward.
Original 11/16/18 1pm:
From the Anchorage District Attorney's office:
(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.