AUGUSTA — An elderly man described repeatedly in court as “compassionate and kind” will spend the next 20 months in prison for repeatedly molesting a 9-year-old girl.

Joseph A. Tripp, 78, of Wayne was sentenced Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court to eight years in prison, with all but 20 months suspended and six years’ probation.

He had pleaded guilty May 25 to a charge of unlawful sexual contact. The offenses occurred in Wayne between Jan. 1, 2009, and Nov. 16, 2009.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell Jr., had sought a two-year period of initial jail time for Tripp.
“Multiple times on multiple occasions, he violated this child,” Mitchell told Justice Nancy Mills.  “He told her, ‘It’s our secret.’”

Mills said she recognized Tripp’s acceptance of responsibility by his confessing to Maine State Police investigators and sparing the child from having to testify in front of the grand jury and at trial.

The judge said she hoped therapy for the victim — funded by Tripp — would help the girl deal with the anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder issues and temper tantrums reported by the girl’s mother.

Tripp apologized to the girl’s family in court.

“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” he said. “I still love my family even though they’ve disowned me. They trusted me …I feel terrible. I not only sinned against then, I sinned against God, my church. I sinned against by friends and neighbors.”
As he listened to friends and relatives testify about his generous character, he cried, removing his glasses and wiping his eyes.