PORTLAND — An admitted pedophile from Gorham pleaded guilty Thursday to molesting three children at his second home on Sebago Lake last summer and was sentenced to serve eight years of a 25-year prison sentence.

Michael Emerson, 48, pleaded guilty in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court to three counts of unlawful sexual contact with children younger than 12. One count was for molesting a boy in June at his home on Middle Beach Road on Frye Island, and two were for molesting two girls in August at the same home.

When Emerson was first charged, Frye Island police said he was a youth group volunteer, but would not identify the group because none of the victims was connected to Emerson through the group.

Justice Roland Cole accepted a plea agreement Thursday, sentencing Emerson to serve eight years in prison followed by 10 years of probation. If Emerson violates the terms of his probation after his release, he will be subject to serving 17 more years.

Parents of two of the victims spoke at Thursday’s plea hearing. One girl’s mother called Emerson “a repulsive, disgusting person” and the boy’s father said that his family “has learned the hard way that there are evil and sick people in the world.”

David Redmond, a relative of one of the girls, read to the court a statement she wrote to Emerson.

“I want you to know I am very mad and angry at you. You changed my whole life, not in a good way,” Redmond read from the girl’s letter. “I was scared to tell my parents on you mostly because I was ashamed.”

Emerson also stood to speak, apologizing to both girls by name, and their families, but he did not apologize to the boy he molested or the boy’s family.

Emerson’s attorney, Robert Levine, argued that he believes Emerson has “real potential for rehabilitation.”

“From the time I met him, he began to do the right thing. That’s not to discount what he did,” Levine said. “Michael admitted that he is a pedophile.”

The prosecutor, Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Tice, said he was “deeply troubled” that Emerson was able to apologize to some of his victims but not all of them.

“He hasn’t accepted total responsibility for it. The evidence is clear that all three of these children were sexually abused,” Cole said. “He’s going to jail today, and he’s going to be there for a long time. The kids don’t have to be afraid.”

Cole told the families of Emerson’s victims that by accepting the plea agreement reached by the prosecutor and Emerson’s attorney, he was allowing the case to be resolved without a trial that could traumatize the children further.

“One of the benefits of a plea agreement is, the kids don’t have to come to court and they don’t have to testify,” Cole said.

The judge also said that sending Emerson to prison for at least eight years will assure the children that they won’t run into him in public and, hopefully, will speed their recovery.

Emerson’s mother, Mary Parker, spoke on her son’s behalf, saying she wishes that this country had places for people like him to seek help once they realize they have a problem, without risk of police being notified.

“I have no idea why a person’s sexual orientation goes amiss, but I’m sure it is genetic,” Parker said. “But a man pulled in that direction needs help, not jail.”

The judge disagreed, saying he is “very much in favor of the mandatory disclosure requirement” for anyone, such as a therapist or a priest, to tell police if they hear of molestation.

Cole said that when he was appointed as a judge in 1981, few child molestation cases were in the court system. Then, in the early 1990s, when disclosure became mandatory, the courts were “flooded” with cases.

“I’ve sentenced hundreds of pedophiles over the years, and this is a reasonable sentence,” Cole said.

The judge ordered Emerson to:

• Have no contact with children younger than 18, other than his 16-year-old son.

• Register as a sex offender.

• Have no contact with the victims or their families.

• Pay $4,500 restitution for the children’s counseling.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

[email protected]