Eric Bard, who is accused of sexually assaulting a child he was babysitting, is seen during a January 2015 hearing at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Bard pleaded guilty to 21 charges Tuesday, after his initial conviction was overturned because the district attorney and judge met and discussed the case without the defense present. He has been sentenced to 28 years in prison, down from his initial sentence of 50 years. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — A former Sidney man once convicted of raping a 4-year-old child and recording his acts on his cellphone — who later had that conviction overturned — pleaded guilty to those charges for the second time Tuesday.

Eric Bard, 33, first pleaded guilty to 21 charges, including gross sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor, in 2014 for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl he was babysitting in 2011 and 2012. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, in 2015. But that conviction was appealed and overturned by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which granted him a new trial.

Rather than face a new trial, Bard instead agreed to a plea deal with state prosecutors, in which he again pleaded guilty to all 21 charges against him. He received an agreed-upon, negotiated sentence of 28 years, 22 years less than the initial sentence he was given.

Prosecutor Paul Rucha, an assistant attorney general, said the plea deal was made to avoid going to trial — which spares the victim from having to testify about what Bard did to her — and to bring the more than a decade-old case to a close with a conviction.

The plea deal makes the case “finally over” for the now-teenaged victim’s family, Rucha said. “They waited a long time.”

The victim’s mother did not attend Tuesday’s court hearing but submitted a letter expressing dissatisfaction with Bard’s sentence, part of which Superior Court Justice Paul A. Fritzsche read Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.


“I’d say this is the day we’d been waiting for, but not the result we were waiting for,” she wrote. “This isn’t justice. But it will do for now.”

She said she was not going to put into detail what Bard’s actions had done to her family, and said that someday he would get what he deserves.

The diminutive, long-haired Bard, wearing a green jail uniform, apologized, in a very soft-spoken voice.

“I would like to say I’m sorry,” he said, acknowledging he had caused hurt for the victim’s family. “I want to say sorry to everyone that’s affected. I’m sorry.”

Fritzsche said he hopes the victim either has no memory of what Bard did to her or, if she does, that she is able to recover.

“An argument could be made for a longer sentence, but for that to happen would have required a trial,” Fritzsche said. “Which would be an absolutely miserable experience for all involved. A 28-year sentence is a very, very significant sentence. The mandatory minimum for murder is 25 years, so there are people who commit murders who get a 28-year sentence. I believe this is, overall, a just sentence.”


Bard’s attorney, John Pelletier, said Bard has accepted responsibility for what he did.

Bard’s first conviction was overturned after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Bard was deprived of due process because the judge in the first trial, Superior Court Justice Donald Marden, met improperly with Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, without a lawyer for the defense present. Marden had requested to meet with Maloney.

The investigation began in May 2012, when a woman came across a Craigslist advertisement offering to babysit, photograph and bathe children. She reported it to Maine State Police, who, after filing subpoenas to get the address used to open the account from the internet provider, learned that someone at Bard’s address had created the ad.

After first denying it, Bard acknowledged he had placed the ad, according to officials. Police said Bard admitted he had looked at child pornography on computers at the home.

Police seized computers and other devices from the home Bard shared with family members, and found photographs on an SD card, an electronic storage device, that showed Bard engaging in sexual assaults of the 4-year-old girl he had babysat.

Bard, after he was granted a new trial, initially pleaded both not guilty to the 21 counts against him and, not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. But he was found to be competent to stand trial.

At Pelletier’s request, the judge recommended Bard be housed at Maine Correctional Center in Windham because, due to his small physical size and the nature of his offense, his safety might be at higher risk if he is housed in other correctional facilities. Judges cannot dictate where inmates are housed, Pelletier acknowledged, but judges can make recommendations.

Bard’s mother, Jean Bard, attended Tuesday’s hearing, but did not speak in court.

Conditions of Bard’s lifetime of supervised release include that he not have any devices capable of accessing the internet, have no contact with any minors, undergo sex offender counseling, register on the state sex offender registry, have no contact with the victim, participate in a living skills program, and not visit any public parks, swimming pools, or school property where children congregate.

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