Prison time in fatal tainted cocaine sentencing

Greg Marsten | Staff writer
Gabrielle Gates
Travis Sicard sentencing in case that hinged on Gabrielle Gates’ death

BALSAM LAKE – Prison time was ordered for a man who originally stood accused of felony first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of drugs, in the death of 20-year-old Gabrielle Gates in March 2017.
Travis Sicard, 41, of Somerset, was charged with Gates’ death in December 2017 and was originally slated to go before a jury in a trial on the charge last December but his veritable last-minute plea deal acceptance put the brakes on the trial.
However, Sicard had amassed at least nine separate charges – mainly bail jumping for bond violations – in several counties in the several months between the reckless homicide charge filing and the time of Gates’ death. 
Under the Polk County plea deal, Sicard pleaded guilty to a pair of lesser felony counts of bail jumping, one as a “repeater,” and he was slated to be sentenced last month by Judge Jeffery Anderson in Polk County Circuit Court. A defense motion to have a second presentence investigation report delayed his sentencing until last week, to Thursday, March 14, when Sicard appeared before the judge to learn his fate.
That plea deal with prosecutors dismissed a number of his outstanding counts and amended his original felony charge of first-degree reckless homicide/by the delivery of a Schedule I or II drug, down to a felony count of felony first-degree reckless injury. He originally faced up to 40 years prison on the reckless homicide charge and still faced up to a quarter century in state prison with the amended charge, which was dismissed in the plea deal and used as a “read-in” for consideration at the sentencing.
It was during that sentencing hearing that the judge heard and read a volume of statements on the impact of Sicard’s actions and Gates’ passing, and what a tragic loss it was.
While Sicard was sentenced on the two bail jumping felonies, the judge also pointed out his considerable litany of “dismissed but read in” cases and charges from several counties in his final action, which ultimately included prison time.
After considering the many written impact statements, Anderson noted Sicard’s criminal history and how it didn’t always seem to jibe with the presentence investigation results, including the number of charges against Sicard in the time since Gates’ death, in March 2017, and when he was finally charged for her death, nine months later.
“After that date, there were multiple other charges since,” Anderson said. “Including within days of the (March 17, 2017 allegation)”
The judge went over each of Sicard’s past allegations and DRIs, which included a “subsequent number of bail jumping charges,” and cited a prior conviction and plea deal in St. Croix County where he was originally charged with strangulation/suffocation, battery-domestic abuse and more, where the victim was quoted as saying that Sicard threatened her within an inch of her life.
“(The victim) said he (Sicard) told her he would squeeze the last breath out of her,” Anderson said with a sigh, noting that it led to a plea deal reduction that included a guilty plea to misdemeanor battery conviction. 
But then he rattled off his history since, which included multiple felony bail jumping charges, from failed drug tests to drugs discovered in his backpack and other violations of court orders, and not just from Polk County.
“You had at least a year of bond violations, drug use and multiple charges … but your activities did not stop,” Anderson said. “I have 11 complaints in front of me for one year, and it’s not just coming from Polk County – it’s month after month … that’s serious.”
Then Anderson went over Sicard’s prior criminal history, going back to when he was a juvenile in the mid-1990s, where he was forced to attend a juvenile school, due to his delinquency and criminal activity. He noted convictions for battery, disorderly conduct and more that led to a five-month jail stint. 
The judge also pointed out a time where Sicard “head-butted” a woman in a domestic assault that led to three years of probation, followed by a convictionin 2000 for domestic assault, where he threatened a different woman with a knife, broke into her home, caused injuries, fled the scene while under the influence and more, while he was a drug dealer.
He also cited a battery of charges and convictions that included several DUIs, more bail jumping charges and a noted 2005 St. Croix County incident where Sicard “continued his pattern,” the judge said, stating that in one incident, Sicard “…tackled a (different) woman, bounced her head off the wall … then held a knife to her and threatened to kill her in front of her children … that led to 18 months in jail.”
Anderson then pointed out three more DUIs over the years, including another battery charge, which led to a conviction for false imprisonment, “… involving a domestic incident where he strangled, punched and held her against her will, using an air-powered BB gun,” adding that Sicard had apparently crawled on top of the victim and physically threatened to assault her as her child cried beside them.
Anderson took a deep breath as he counted off the volume of incidents, charges, convictions and violations of court orders over the years.  
“The court sees a history of domestic violence,” Anderson said. “And an issue of rising lethality and escalation that has occurred over time.”
Sicard has continually denied being the person who supplied the cocaine that killed Gabrielle Gates, in spite of overwhelming evidence suggesting otherwise, including text messages and other accounts, but during his right of allocution, where he could make a statement to the courts, he sought mercy and apologized to the judge, while maintaining his earlier denial.
“I feel bad for what happened,” Sicard said about Gates’ death, sobbing while he apologized to the courts and others for having to spend so much time on his cases and criminality. “… and for not following the simple rules … but I did not sell her drugs that killed her.”
The judge pointed out assessments in his PSI, where he seemed to underplay as “petty crimes” his criminal history, and how he ignored his history of domestic violence.
“Providing drugs was part of (Sicard’s) history,” Anderson said, citing Ms. Gates’ death, on top of “Many, many, many violations of court orders.” 
Prosecutor Jeff Kemp agreed with the judge, that Sicard has a history of failure in following court orders, and how he supported a sentence that will protect the public.
In the end, Judge Anderson imposed two six-year sentences for each felony bail jumping, amounting to three years of incarceration followed by three years of extended supervision, on each count.
“Consecutive to each other,” Anderson added, meaning he will serve six years of incarceration in a state prison, followed by similar stints of extended supervision.
Anderson did not apply the “repeater” enhancements, but did say that his sentence was concurrent to other sentencing in St. Croix County, where Sicard is currently serving a six-month jail sentence, with four years of probation, on a 2018 conviction from a plea deal on multiple felony bail jumping charges.
The judge cited the reckless endangering DRI in his sentence of prison time, while also noting that there are likely restitution hearings to come and that Sicard and his attorney have 20 days to seek postconviction relief.
The primary charges against Sicard allege that he was behind the delivery of tainted cocaine that led to the death of 20-year-old Gabrielle Gates, of Osceola, in March of 2017.
The criminal complaint outlined how Ms. Gates was found unconscious on March 17, 2017, apparently from a reaction to a drug overdose or “some kind of poison.” 
EMTs were able to keep her alive with a dose of Narcan and briefly revived her, but she was taken by air ambulance to a Twin Cities trauma center, which is where she later passed away, on March 19, 2017.
An autopsy and subsequent investigation by the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory focused on the discovery of a small amount of cocaine found with Gates, which led to a final conclusion that her cocaine had been “cut” using a drug called Levamisole, which is a medication used to treat parasitic worm infections, but has also had use in cancer treatments in both people and animals. 
In the complaint and during subsequent hearings, investigators noted that Levamisole is a common adulterant or ”cutting agent” in cocaine production, and her official cause of death was listed as “Anoxic brain injury due to cardiopulmonary arrest, due to acute cocaine toxicity ... and cerebral edema.”
Subsequent investigations by the St. Croix and Polk County sheriffs’ departments resulted in a search warrant at Sicard’s Somerset home, which seemed to support the conclusion that he supplied the tainted cocaine.
As noted earlier, Sicard repeatedly denied giving Gates the tainted drugs that later killed her, but he admitted to consuming cocaine with her before they attended the Twin Cities Auto Show, several days before she died.
As investigators pointed out several times, text messages between Sicard and Gates suggested that he had sold her drugs at least once before or at least “shared” a portion of his personal supply with Gates. 
Sicard’s denials of being involved in Gates’ passing seemed to ring hollow as the investigation continued, as investigators from both sheriff’s offices noted that Sicard had apparently admitted to several other people in his circle of friends that he had indeed supplied the cocaine that killed Gates.
Gabrielle Gates’ funeral was held on March 24, 2017, in Amery, with a private interment.
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