FARMINGTON — A Wilton man who pleaded guilty in March to sexually assaulting a family member under the age of 14 was denied an opportunity to withdraw his plea Friday.

Lance Woodbury, 40, pleaded guilty on March 9 to gross sexual assault, a class A felony subject to up to 30 years in prison and $50,000 in fines, as well as a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from a fight with another inmate in Franklin County jail. That inmate was set to testify that Woodbury had admitted in prison to having sex with the 12-year-old family member, said Assistant District Attorney Claire Andrews.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors had recommended a 20-year sentence with a 10-year cap on possible suspended time, 10 years of probation and lifetime registration as a sex offender, according to court records. Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss a charge for an earlier violation of the conditions of Woodbury’s release.

In a handwritten note dated March 29, Woodbury asked to be able to retract his plea, fire his court-appointed attorney and appoint Auburn-based attorney George Hess. Woodbury sat quietly next to Hess in Franklin County Superior Court last week, his head shaved, hands and feet shackled, as attorneys argued the merits of his request before Justice Robert Mullen. At one point Woodbury, his eyes on the table in front of him, could be seen slowly shaking his head as Andrews ran through the state’s arguments against the motion. When asked, Woodbury declined to make any statement on his own behalf.

Two days later, Mullen denied Woodbury’s request. Woodbury is scheduled to be sentenced May 25, though he still has the option of appealing Mullen’s ruling.

The most serious charge Woodbury faces stems from an April 22, 2016, incident in which he was accused of having sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old relative in his Wilton home. According to police statements, Woodbury initially denied the allegations, offering to take a polygraph test, but admitted having sex with the girl “briefly” after the test showed he was not being truthful. In court last week, Hess argued that the polygraph results would be inadmissible if the case went to trial because they are “not deemed to be that reliable.” Hess also said it was not yet clear what kind of pressure Woodbury was under when he gave his statements to police.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Wilton police Chief Heidi Wilcox said Woodbury had spoken “sincerely about remorse for acting on his physical response.”

“Woodbury insisted that this was the only inappropriate sexual contact that he has ever had with (the girl) or anyone else underaged,” the affidavit read.

In a letter to the court, Woodbury’s former attorney, Sarah Glynn, said she supported his decision to withdraw his plea, stating that Woodbury consistently had pushed to take the case to trial and the “sudden ‘change of heart'” might have stemmed from “the recent strife that occurred in jail.” Woodbury agreed to plead guilty the day after his confrontation with the other inmate. Glynn reiterated her support for Woodbury in court last week.

“In my view, I believe he should have been allowed to withdraw the plea if he wasn’t comfortable with it.” Glynn said.

Andrews argued that Woodbury’s decision to plead made perfect sense in light of the additional assault charge he would face because of the fight. She also questioned Woodbury’s attorneys’ decision to wait until the latest hearing to bring up possible health problems that might have affected his decision. Woodbury’s attorneys argued that he was suffering a hernia and significant back pain at the time.

As he was escorted out of the courtroom last week, Woodbury turned and spoke to the officer leading him back to jail.

“The truth will set me free,” he said. “Watch. Because I didn’t touch her.”

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

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Twitter: @KateRMcCormick