AUGUSTA — An Augusta man is expected to spend the next eight years in prison for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl.

Mark D. Van Sickle, 38, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but eight of those years suspended, Thursday. In an emotion-filled court hearing, the mother of the victim said her young, once happy-go-lucky daughter is now afraid of everyone because of what Van Sickle did to her.

In September Van Sickle pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful sexual contact, both involving the same girl who was 8 years old at the time. The state dismissed four other similar charges. According to Deputy District Attorney Frayla Tarpinian, Van Sickle admitted, upon questioning by police, to having sexual contact with the girl six times in 2019. The girl told authorities she recalled at least eight incidents, the first when she was 7 years old.

The girl’s mother read a letter from her daughter in court Thursday.

“It really hurt me,” the girl wrote. “Please lock him up as long as you can, and it’ll help me be less afraid.”

Her mother said the crimes have destroyed her life. She said her daughter is in counseling, but she fears she may never get over her injuries and is afraid of every man.

The indictment of Van Sickle indicated there were six incidents in Augusta involving the same child in 2019, three between Jan. 1 and March 31 and three between April 1 and June 29, and the sexual contact included penetration.

Van Sickle expressed sorrow and remorse for what he did, struggling to speak as he briefly addressed the court.

“I express my deepest regrets,” the slender, dark-haired Van Sickle said. “I know nothing I can say or do can fix the damage I did to this poor child, and I’m truly sorry and hope she can get the help she needs to have a good and fulfilling life despite what I have done.”

His attorney, Andrew Wright, noted Van Sickle had no prior criminal record. Wright also noted Van Sickle took full responsibility for what he did, pleading guilty and saying from the start he planned to plead guilty and had no interest in going to trial.

He said Van Sickle was a victim of sexual abuse himself in his youth, something he said devastated his life and led him to feeling great remorse that he has now continued the cycle of abuse and did what was done to him to another child. Wright said Van Sickle’s life has fallen to pieces since the crimes, and he stutters and cries frequently.

Van Sickle’s parents, Robert and Toni, said they only recently found out their son was sexually abused in his youth. They said they were shocked to learn of that abuse and to learn their son had committed the crimes. When he told them about it, they said they didn’t believe they were things he was capable of doing. They also both apologized to the victim’s mother and said their son has been punishing himself for the last year-and-a-half. His mother said they still love him.

“He thinks he’s a monster and he did a horrible thing,” his mother, Toni Van Sickle, said to Justice William Stokes, through tears. “And we ask you to do whatever you can, sir, to at least give him some help so that one day he can put all this behind him.”

His father said Van Sickle has strong values, has worked since he was 13-years-old and hopes he can return to society and be a productive citizen.

Stokes said Van Sickle is still a relatively young man and urged him to, instead of simply feeling bad about what he did to the girl, do good for the remainder of his life.

“I agree, Mrs. Van Sickle, Mark is not a monster,” Stokes said. “He did a monstrous thing. And we have to sentence him for what he did, but we also have to sentence him for who he is.”

Stokes, addressing Van Sickle directly, said “You can use this time, the rest of your life, to think about the seriousness of what you did, and it is serious. But you can also take some steps to atone for it. You can’t undo the harm you’ve done to that little girl, but perhaps you can help someone. You still have some worth left, some ability left, to use the rest of your life to atone for what you’ve done. Not to punish yourself, but to do some good.”

Stokes said the base sentence of 15 years reflects the seriousness of the crime, the age of the victim and that the sexual assaults happened multiple times.

“We’re dealing with a very young child who is totally innocent, totally defenseless, so I have to put this at a pretty high level,” he said. “Physical wounds may heal but this type of intimate assault is so personal and violative of your human dignity and freedom. I hope and pray (the victim) will be resilient and will recover from this, so it’s not something that haunts her for the rest of her life.”

The Class A felony charges of unlawful sexual contact are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Van Sickle will be required to register as a sex offender in Maine for the rest of his life.

Wright and Tarpinian both indicated 15 years was likely the proper base sentence, with the only disagreement between them how much of that sentence should be suspended. The two also disagreed about how long his suspended additional sentence should be for the second count of the same charge. That term was suspended, but Van Sickle could have to serve it if he violates the terms of his probation. Those terms include that he undergo sex offender counseling and have no contact with children under 16 years of age or the victim or her family. If he doesn’t follow those conditions, he could face an additional seven years in prison.

Tarpinian said Van Sickle was in a position of trust with the girl when he assaulted her, and that as a victim of sexual abuse himself, he of all people should have known the damage he was causing to the girl.

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