AUGUSTA — A Waterville man who allegedly exposed himself inside an Augusta store last year pleaded guilty Friday to four counts of indecent conduct and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Nicholas R. Hutchings, 35, was sentenced to three years imprisonment, but with all but 45 days of that sentence suspended, meaning he will serve 45 days in jail out of that sentence if he follows his conditions of probation.

He will be on probation for two years with conditions including that he undergo substance abuse counseling, have no contact with children under 16 years of age other than supervised contact with his own daughter, and that he not possess alcohol, drugs, marijuana, pornography, firearms or dangerous weapons.

Court testimony, at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, indicated drug and alcohol use was involved in Hutchings’ crimes and he also is receiving mental health counseling.

One of the indecent conduct charges stemmed from a February 2020 incident in Augusta in which Hutchings, according to an affidavit filed by Augusta Officer Simon Yorks, exposed and touched his genitals while staring at an 11-year-old girl inside a T.J. Maxx store.

Police first responded to the shopping center after an employee of Kohl’s department store reported a man who had been in the store several times had exposed his genitals to a woman at the customer service counter, then left the store. While police were en route to that call, a T.J. Maxx employee also called police to report a man had just exposed himself to some customers and left the store.

Augusta police, who were provided with a photograph of the suspect from the store’s video surveillance camera, found Hutchings walking down the road from T.J. Maxx, in front of Elevation Burger.

He told police he had been killing some time, and had been to Kohl’s and other stores.

A visual sexual aggression against a child charge initially filed after that incident was dismissed previously, but the indecent conduct charge remained.

Two of the other indecent conduct charges took place during one incident, with Hutchings being taken into custody for alleged indecent conduct at Popham Beach last year and being taken to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick for a mental health evaluation where he engaged in similar conduct, according to his attorney, David Paris.

Information on a fourth indecent conduct charge was not immediately available, but court records indicate the charge was made in Gardiner.

Hutchings also pleaded guilty to three counts of violating conditions of release.

The only felony is the possession of a firearm by a prohibited person charge. Hutchings was not allowed to possess firearms due to having a felony conviction on his record.

On Feb. 1, 2020, Waterville police pulled Hutchings over because they saw him driving and were aware he had been drinking earlier in the day. They performed a field sobriety test, which did not result in any charges. But while speaking with Hutchings, Michael Madigan, an assistant district attorney said, Hutchings turned over a flare gun he had on him to police.

Madigan said the flare gun, which uses a hammer to ignite an accelerant and strikes a cartridge that projects a flare, meets the state’s definition of a firearm. While that charge was the basis of Hutchings’ sentence, Madigan acknowledged the case involved “a unique set of circumstances,” and that it is Hutchings’ “string of misdemeanor conduct that is far more concerning to the state” and agreed that underlying issues needed to be addressed.

Paris said Hutchings likely had the flare gun for self-protection and did not realize it met the state’s definition of a firearm. He said Hutchings has stayed out of trouble since his arrest.

Asked by Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee where he was from, Hutchings said he was born in Massachusetts but moved to Maine as a child when his parents died.

Father of a 5-year-old daughter, Hutchings said he takes great pride in being a parent, loves her very much, and that he wants to get back to work, and has a lot of experience in wood and metal construction framing.

Mallonee told Hutchings his actions were “terribly damaging to the people on the other end of those encounters” but that it seemed clear to him he would not hurt anyone on purpose. He said he hoped Hutchings’ time on probation would help give him the tools he needs to not be a danger to anyone.

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