AUGUSTA — A Livermore Falls man arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a girl in Mount Vernon when she was 9 and 10 years old has pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

If Anthony J. Mecham, 31, meets the conditions of his deferred disposition, he will spend about six months in jail.

Anthony J. Mecham

Mecham, who was initially charged with the class A felony of gross sexual assault, and the Class C felony of visual sexual aggression against a child, had the gross sexual assault charge dropped in court Wednesday. Instead, he pleaded guilty to the visual sexual aggression against a child charge as well as a new, Class D misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual contact.

The visual sexual aggression charge could put Mecham in prison for up to five years and require him to register as a sex offender for 20 years.

However, if he complies with the terms of a deferred disposition agreement reached with state prosecutors, that visual sexual aggression against a child charge would be dismissed, and leave him only charged with the lone unlawful sexual contact charge, for which he will be required to register for the state’s sex offender list for 10 years.

Conditions of the year-long deferred disposition agreement include that he have no contact with the victim or any females under the age of 18 and that he complete sex offender counseling.

If Mecham complies with the deferred disposition and the similar terms of his probation, he is likely to spend about six months in jail, as his sentence on the unlawful sexual contact charge is 364 days in jail, with all but six months suspended, and one-year probation.

Asked by Justice William Stokes why the state agreed to the deferred disposition, state prosecutor Kristen Murray-James, an assistant district attorney, said the state had concerns about putting the young victim on the witness stand at trial. She said the victim’s account of what happened to her was initially consistent but as the case went on her version of events changed somewhat.

The victim seems to be highly influenced in what she’s willing to say about the case by her mother, and “the state’s concern is it would be very detrimental to the young victim to put her on the stand,” Murray-James said.

Brad Grant, Mecham’s attorney, said a private investigator he hired interviewed the girl twice and she recanted all of her accusations other than, Grant said, “perhaps unlawful sexual touching.”

Grant said Mecham agreed to the deal to do the right thing and due to the risk of going to trial and facing the gross sexual assault charge, which would bring a 20-year minimum prison sentence.

“We challenged everything from day one in this case,” Grant said at the Capital Judicial Center on Wednesday, adding that the victim’s initial report of what happened, made to a school counselor, alleged the incidents happened seven years ago, in a different county. “The risk here is big for him. If he goes to trial, the base sentence starts at 20 years. So he’s trying to do the right thing, and the state’s doing the right thing in a very difficult case to figure out where it’s going to go at the conclusion of trial.”

Murray-James said while the victim’s description of what happened did change somewhat, “there is no doubt in the state’s mind that this happened.”

She said if the case had gone to trial testimony from the victim and John Bourque a detective with the Kennebec County Sherriff’s Office, would include that the victim reported she was sexually assaulted to her school counselor, and that she said Mecham touched her on several occasions between Jan. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018, when the girl was 9 and 10 years-old.

When police interviewed him, Mecham initially denied anything inappropriate had occurred, according to an affidavit; however, he later admitted during the interview that the girl might have seen him masturbating.

Mecham was expected to start his jail sentence Wednesday.

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