A Topsham man and former postmaster was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty in June to sexually assaulting a female minor over a period of eight years.

Robert Welch, 63, pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sexual contact and two counts of gross sexual assault as part of a plea deal. All but one of the counts are Class B felonies subject to 10 years incarceration. One count of unlawful sexual contact is a Class C crime punishable by up to 5 years.

The abuse took place from 2008 to 2017, started when the victim was 7 years old and occurred regularly, according to Sagadahoc County District Attorney Jonathan Liberman.

After the sentencing, Welch was taken to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, where he was to be transferred to the Maine Department of Corrections.

Topsham police arrested Welch on June 5, 2017. In August 2017, he was indicted by a Sagadahoc County grand jury on 20 sex crime charges, including 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact and 10 counts of gross sexual assault. As part of the plea agreement, all but six charges were dismissed.

Justice Daniel Billings sentenced Welch to 20 years, with all but 10 years suspended and six years of probation.

Upon his release, Welch will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He will undergo sex offender treatment and is prohibited from contact with children under the age of 16, from having any sexually explicit materials, and is subject to random search for electronic devices with internet access or storage capability. He is also prohibited from schools, parks or facilitates that cater to children.

“I can only imagine how difficult it is in a case like this when you’re essentially asked to come up with a sentence that fits with two people,” Liberman said. “And I say that because there’s the Robert Welch that he held up to the public and the life that he lived publicly; and then there’s the Robert Welch behind closed doors.”

Welch is the former postmaster in Topsham and served in the Army. He had no criminal record.

“He was someone loved and trusted by his family members and he was someone who was liked and trusted by co-workers,” Liberman said.

There was also some evidence of psychological abuse of the victim by Welch, Liberman said. The victim suffers from a generalized anxiety disorder as well as post traumatic stress disorder.

Welch’s lawyer, Gerard Conley, asked for a sentence of only five years in prison.

Darcie Moore can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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