AUGUSTA — A Sidney man was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for repeatedly sexually assaulting a 4-year-old he was babysitting and recording those acts.

Eric L. Bard, 25, had pleaded guilty last August to 21 separate charges: 11 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, seven counts of gross sexual assault, two counts of unlawful sexual contact and a single count of assault.

The state requested the 50-year term, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. The defense asked for imprisonment to be limited to seven years, followed by 30 years of supervised release.

Justice Donald Marden noted that Bard began grooming the girl from about age 2, starting a relationship by taking modeling-style photos of her clothed and then moving into naked modeling, suggestive photos and making videos of himself performing the sexual assaults.

“The effect on this young girl is monumental,” Marden said during the sentencing hearing at the Capital Judicial Center. “When you do this, you destroy the person.”

Marden also said Bard engaged in deceptive behavior, citing the constant rocking to and fro visible in court but absent from videos of Bard playing games and interacting at the Kennebec County jail, where he has been held for about three years.

Marden rejected the defense suggestion to allow Bard to be treated in a community setting, commenting that Bard’s limited cognitive function and other deficits would make that difficult.

“You need help; you need a lot of help,” Marden told Bard.

Two psychologists testified Friday that Bard was diagnosed with pedophilia with a foot fetish.

One forensic psychologist who was a witness for the state said Bard needed sex offender treatment available only in the state prison system; the other psychologist said Bard could be managed and treated in the community.

Bard said nothing except to indicate he would not be addressing the court. His guilty pleas were conditional on an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court of one of Marden’s rulings.

Five family members or friends sat with Bard’s mother during most of the hearing, and Bard’s mother and stepfather agreed that the state could retain possession of the computers seized from their Sidney home, where Eric Bard lived. Some 35 people watched the hearing, including a number of reporters.

The mother of the victim named in the charges wrote an impact statement to the judge, but it was not read aloud in court. Both she and the girl’s father were in the courtroom for some of the testimony on Friday, and the girl’s father was present when the sentence was pronounced.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha, referred to the victim impact statement, saying the girl, now 7, requested numerous showers a day and wouldn’t sleep alone and is concerned someone might see the videos of the sexual assaults that Bard recorded.

“This case has profoundly changed this victim,” Rucha told the judge.

MAXIMUM RISK

Rucha, too, said the rocking to and fro by Bard and his apparent lack of interest in the court proceedings were deceitful. Rucha said Bard even tried to deceive his own attorneys by indicating he could not read or write.

Rucha said Bard displayed predatory behavior in seeking out a child who was initially not very articulate.

“He groomed her, said he loved her. He gave her food and playthings,” Rucha said.

He said Bard needs to be supervised for life for the safety of the public.

“He will seek out the very youngest members of (the) community,” Rucha said. “He will violate them.”

Defense attorney Ronald Bourget said the state was singling out Bard for a lengthier sentence because of the photographs and videos.

Bourget said there are mitigating circumstances, including Bard’s age and low functioning cognitive ability and lack of prior criminal conduct.

“There is no evidence he would violate probation if placed on it, and a bunch of tests that indicate he’s not a psychopath,” Bourget said.

Andrew Wisch, a forensic psychologist who assessed Bard for the State Forensic Service, said he diagnosed Bard with pedophilia because of his sexual interest in children and a foot fetish disorder.

He testified that his assessment was unusual because he was able to see the photos and videos of the offenses occurring, and said there appeared to be ritualistic behavior with the girl knowing exactly what she was supposed to do while taking directions from Bard.

Wisch also said that Bard appeared to have little empathy for the child, citing an instance on a video where she expressed discomfort with what was happening.

“She said she was going to puke,” Wisch said. “He said, ‘No, you’re not going to puke.’”

On Friday, Mark Fortin, a sex offender specialist within the Office of Probation & Parole who prepared the presentence report on Bard, testified he would classify Bard as a maximum risk to reoffend “given the nature of the crime and the inability to accept responsibility” and recommended a lifetime of supervision to protect the community and for Bard’s own safety. However, Fortin said all sex offenders released from prison are classified as maximum risk until they prove to be compliant with conditions over time.

Bourget called forensic psychologist Elise Magnuson, who has worked in several states doing sex offender evaluations and treatment and who also evaluated Bard.

“I think his risk level can be managed in the community while he’s receiving treatment,” Magnuson testified.

PHOTOS AS EVIDENCE

Bard was in a dark green jail uniform at Friday’s sentencing hearing, constantly rocking to and fro, his long hair draped forward and nearly covering his face. He was not handcuffed, but his legs were shackled. Occasionally he turned his head when one of his attorneys addressed him directly, but he generally looked down at the table as Bourget questioned witnesses and made his argument.

Investigators said Bard had befriended the child’s mother in 2010 and baby-sat the girl many times at a series of apartments in Augusta when the sexual abuse occurred. The offenses that Bard pleaded guilty to occurred between December 2011 and April 2012.

The investigation began when another mother seeking day care services for her child in May 2012 came across an ad on Craigslist offering to baby-sit, photograph and bathe children. She reported it to Maine State Police, who learned that Bard had placed the ad.

Initially police looked for child pornography on Bard’s computers, then located a micro SD card used for storing data, which Bard told them contained “personal things,” according to an affidavit filed in court by the chief investigator, Maine State Police Detective Chris Tremblay.

Bard objected to their viewing items on that device, and that has been the subject of suppression motions by defense attorneys, the latest of which came just before the start of his trial. The judge denied them all, ruling that discovery of the images and videos on the device was inevitable. Bard pleaded guilty on Aug. 27, 2014, the second day of his jury trial.

At the sentencing hearing, the judge permitted media coverage but prohibited audio and visual recording of any victim or the victim’s family members, none of whom spoke or identified themselves.

Marden had accepted Bard’s guilty pleas earlier with the understanding they were conditioned on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s upholding Marden’s suppression rulings. Marden also ruled that Bard was competent both to stand trial and to enter guilty pleas.