Caribou man convicted of sex assault on minors

Posted Jan. 27, 2011, at 11:29 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:31 a.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — A Caribou man who is the proprietor of an electrical contracting business will spend the next 12 years in prison after he was convicted Monday of six sex charges filed against him.

Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney John Pluto said Thursday that Ralph Nichols, 48, was sentenced Monday in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou by Justice E. Allen Hunter.

Nichols, the proprietor of Nichols Electric in Caribou, pleaded no contest and was found guilty of three counts of Class B unlawful sexual contact, Class B gross sexual assault, Class C unlawful sexual contact and Class A gross sexual assault. The most severe Class A crime was punishable by up to 30 years in jail.

Pluto said he could not reveal too many details of the case in order to protect the identity of the three victims, all of whom were under age 16 at the time.

He said the crimes took place between January 2002 and December 2003.

Pluto said the case came to the attention of Officer Mark Gahagan of the Caribou Police Department after one of the victims came forward in 2008. Subsequent investigation led police to the additional victims.

“Initially, Mr. Nichols indicated that he wanted to go to trial,” said Pluto. “We selected a jury earlier this month, but he decided instead to plead no contest to the charges. After he entered the plea he was found guilty.”

Pluto said that substantial evidence existed to convict Nichols. He said that the three victims also would have testified at the trial.

In total, Nichols was sentenced to 22 years in prison with all but 12 years suspended. After serving the 12 years, he will be on probation for six years. He also will be a lifetime registrant on the state’s sex offender registry.

Nichols was taken into custody immediately after his sentencing.

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