AUGUSTA — A 79-year-old Jay man was sentenced Tuesday to a 30-month prison term, the initial part of a longer sentence for having unlawful sexual contact with girls ages 6 and 7.

George O’Donnell had pleaded guilty to three charges of unlawful sexual contact at a May 9 hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court but remained free on bail as he dealt with medical problems, including the aftermath of a stroke and two heart attacks. The offenses occurred in 2012 and earlier in Augusta.

“I know it’s my responsibility and I take full responsibility,” O’Donnell while remaining seated in his wheelchair. “The stroke affected me, which they claim it has; that’s nothing I can correct. That’s in the Lord’s hands. I know I didn’t do it intentionally, and I did not do it with malice or anything.”

He also apologized for taking up the court’s time.

Justice Michaela Murphy, who sentenced him Tuesday to eight years in prison with all but 30 months suspended and eight years’ probation, ordered him taken into custody immediately after the hearing, saying she was convinced the prison medical facility could meet his needs.

It was the sentence recommended by Assistant District Attorney Joelle Pratt, although Murphy imposed a longer probationary period than the state requested.

“The victim impact on these young girls has been profound,” Murphy said. The children were not at the court, but five people — their parents and other relatives — were sitting on benches in the back of the courtroom. The parents had given written statements to the judge before the hearing and did not address her in court.

One woman got up abruptly and left the courtroom as O’Donnell’s defense attorney, J. Mitchell Flick, asked for a county jail sentence of nine months, followed by 12 years of probation. She later returned, clutching a box of tissues, and was still in tears outside after the hourlong hearing concluded.

Pratt said some of the offenses occurred while O’Donnell was in a motorized wheelchair and the girls were riding on his lap; others occurred when the girls were playing doctor and climbing into bed with him. One of the girls was listed as the victim in incidents that occurred between Feb. 1, 2009, and March 24, 2012. The other girl was listed as a victim in an incident on March 24, 2012.

“We’re not talking about a one-time incident,” Pratt said. The prosecutor also said O’Donnell blamed one of the girls when the police interviewed him initially.

Flick described O’Donnell’s medical history, saying he was offering the information “to explain how he ended up doing such terrible things.” Flick said a stroke in 2009 left O’Donnell completely paralyzed and affected his intellectual and mental functioning. He said O’Donnell’s increasing impairment in judgment and impulse control has been documented.

“He raised nine children and a couple of foster kids and never had any problems with any of these kids,” Flick said. “He was a good father. That really stands in contrast to his behavior after the stroke.”

Conditions of probation ban O’Donnell from contact with children under 16, and he is required to register as a lifetime offender under the state’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

Pratt said O’Donnell had a 1984 conviction for abuse of a corpse, and published records at the time indicate that O’Donnell was a former funeral director who kept a man’s body in a garage next to his Jay home for three years rather than bury it as he had promised the family. He was also convicted of aggravated theft and perjury for spending prepaid funeral funds.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com