AUGUSTA — A 26-year-old Augusta man was ordered to serve an initial four years behind bars for sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl about six years ago in the city.

The remainder of the 10-year sentence for Eric Say was suspended while he spends 12 years on probation.

Say had pleaded guilty Aug. 15 at the Capital Judicial Center to one charge of unlawful sexual contact, which occurred in the period of April 2011 to May 2013.

The sentencing hearing took place Friday in the same courthouse.

A number of Say’s relatives who continue to support him attended the hearing. The victim and her family live in Florida.

“He apologized and said he was sorry for what happened,” said his attorney, Walter McKee, outside the courtroom.

In a defense sentencing memo filed with the court, McKee cited Say’s “mental health and intellectual challenges” and noted that those had been raised in several hearings about competency as well as motions to suppress.

McKee suggested that an initial nine months behind bars — which would have kept Say in the Kennebec County jail rather than prison — would have been appropriate.

“Though competent — barely — Eric faces nearly insurmountable challenges ahead especially when it comes to basic communication,” McKee said. He also wrote, “Eric has been living with the shame of what he did for over seven years now.”

The state recommended a five-year period of initial incarceration in the 10-year term, as well as the 12 years of probation.

Say was arrested on the related charges in December 2016. A charge of gross sexual assault was dismissed in exchange for the plea.

According to a court affidavit by Augusta police Detective Tori Tracy, the investigation began when Augusta police were contacted by an officer with the Palm Springs Police Department in Florida who said the girl and her father reported on Oct. 29, 2015, that the girl had been raped by Say while she was living in Augusta.

A later interview with the Child Protection Team in Palm Beach County, Florida, indicated the sexual assaults had occurred in Say’s room.

“Child sexual assault must always result in a prison sentence,” District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said via email after the sentencing. “I appreciate the careful and deliberate decision of the court on a difficult case. This was a fair outcome that will keep the community safe.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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