Washburn man sentenced in sex abuse case

Posted April 21, 2010, at 9:47 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:30 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — A judge on Wednesday sentenced a Washburn man to 17 years in prison with five years suspended for sexually abusing a girl.

Justice Kevin Cuddy sentenced Eric A. Ericson, 57, on a charge of gross sexual assault. He handed down a concurrent five-year prison term for a charge of unlawful sexual contact.

Cuddy also gave Ericson a five-year concurrent sentence on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor. He will be required to register as a sex offender. The abuse occurred in the town of Wade in Aroostook County.

A jury found Ericson guilty last week after a three-day trial in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou, according to Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney Todd Collins. The jury deliberated for about an hour before rendering the verdict.

Collins said Wednesday that the victim, who is not related to Ericson, testified she was 11 years old when the abuse began. She told the court that Ericson had sex with her and forced her to touch him and that he also touched her.

“There was not much that he did not do to this victim,” Collins said.

Collins said the gross sexual assault and the unlawful sexual contact occurred between March 2003 and June 2005, when the victim was under 14. The sexual abuse took place between June 2005 and March 2006, when the victim was 14.

The victim eventually disclosed the abuse to friends and a school counselor. The victim testified at the trial, as did the counselor and a neighbor.

During a lengthy sentencing hearing Wednesday, Collins asked Cuddy to sentence Ericson to a total of 25 years in prison on all three charges. He did not recommend probation.

The victim is now 18. She initially said she did not want to address the court, so Collins read a letter from her during the proceedings. In the letter the victim called Ericson “a bad man” and a “very scary man” who “got very angry when things did not go his way.”

“I was used for sex and I never had a chance to be a kid,” the victim wrote. “What he did changed my whole life.”

The victim wrote that she struggles to trust adults and that she sometimes wishes Ericson would die. She continues to suffer from bad dreams and asked the judge to give Ericson life in prison.

Collins told the court that the victim suffered abuse at the hands of Ericson nearly daily and she had “lost an innocence she can’t reclaim.”

He added that Ericson has shown no remorse for his crimes and has accepted no responsibility for them. Collins said he had no doubt that Ericson would offend again.

After Collins read her letter, the victim decided to speak.

Ericson stared at her as she approached the microphone. She again asked the judge for a stiff sentence.

“He’s ruined pretty much the rest of my life,” she said, holding back tears. “I’d just like to see him in jail forever.”

The girl’s foster father also addressed the court, saying that when the victim came to his home, she rarely looked at anyone through the long hair she kept hanging over her face. She didn’t speak, had nightmares and showed little emotion. When she went away on a trip and stayed in a strange house, she went into a “screaming frenzy” when someone awoke her suddenly.

“He has done irreconcilable damage to this young lady,” he told the court. He also asked for the maximum sentence the judge could administer.

Two people spoke on behalf of Ericson, including a friend who had worked with him on Bible studies, and Ericson’s girlfriend. Both spoke of Ericson as being an intelligent man whom they called a friend. Ericson’s girlfriend said he nursed her through an extended illness and accompanied her to events throughout Aroostook County. She described Ericson as a “sensitive and caring person,” a “loyal and true friend” and an “intelligent” man.

Ericson’s attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, initially tried to get the judge to throw out the guilty verdict and allow a new trial, but Cuddy rejected the request. Silverstein also asked for a much lighter sentence than was sought by the prosecution. He said he was “distressed” by the state’s “lock him up and throw away the key” stance.

Silverstein said Ericson would not admit guilt during the hearing or apologize because he intended to appeal the verdict.

The attorney told the judge that Ericson did not use violence against the victim, meaning no weapons or beatings were involved in the abuse. He added that Ericson took the victim to places such as the library and church, and did not keep her close to him to prevent her from telling others about the abuse.

Ericson also addressed the court. He called himself a Christian and said he did not commit the crimes he was convicted of.

He turned and looked at the victim, saying, “I forgive you” for making the accusations and said that he feels “no malice” toward her and “seeks no revenge.”

After Ericson spoke, Collins called him “cold, calculating, heartless and emotionless.” He also told the judge that Ericson had been charged with kidnapping his own children in 1987 and also was charged with sexual assault in Nebraska. Collins told the judge Ericson had not been convicted of those charges. He said outstanding warrants were issued for Ericson’s arrest for crimes allegedly committed in several states and in Canada. Ericson lived in Texas before coming to Maine, Collins said.

Since Ericson has not been convicted of those crimes, Cuddy did not consider them in his sentencing.

Cuddy called Ericson’s conduct “outrageous” and said he found it “ironic” that Ericson had taken his victim to church. He also addressed Silverstein’s claim that violence was not used in the abuse.

“There might not have been violence or threats, but there was intimidation,” said Cuddy. He called what the victim suffered “abuse in the worst sense of the word.”

Cuddy ultimately sentenced Ericson to 17 years in prison on the gross sexual assault charge, with five years suspended, meaning he will serve 12 years in prison. That will be followed by four years of probation, during which time Ericson will not be allowed to have unsupervised contact with girls under age 16.

He handed down a five-year sentence, to be served concurrently with the sentence for gross sexual assault, on the charge of unlawful sexual contact. He also gave Ericson a five-year concurrent sentence on the charge of sexual abuse of a minor.

Collins said after the hearing that he felt the sentence “was in the right range,” even though it was not as stiff a sentence as he had asked for. He said Wednesday evening that he did not expect the other locations where warrants exist for Ericson’s arrest to extradite him.

Ericson spent three weeks in jail before he made bail and was out on bail until he was convicted in the jury trial.

He was taken to the Aroostook County Jail immediately after his sentencing.

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