SKOWHEGAN — Holding back tears, the victim addressed the courtroom through his computer screen, facing the man who sexually abused him nearly two decades earlier.

“I was more than a patient. I grew up tough, my mother trusted him and he was supposed to be like a father figure,” the victim, now an adult, said.

After a brief pause, he continued. “I just wanted everyone else to know that had ever gone through it with him, it’s OK to say it. I grew up with a lot of shame, but I realized it’s not supposed to be on me, it’s supposed to be on him.”

Gerald Keenan, now 67, will start to serve a seven-year sentence at Maine State Prison in Warren after a sentencing hearing on Thursday at Somerset County Superior Court. Keenan plead guilty to four charges July 2, down from an original 23-count indictment: two counts of unlawful sexual contact and two counts sexual abuse of a minor.

Following his incarceration, Keenan will then be placed on probation for 12 years. If any conditions of his release are violated, he is to serve an additional 10 years in prison.

Although Thursday’s sentencing involved charges from assaults that happened between 2003-2004 and then 2009-2010, the prosecution said that similar accusations stem back to the 1980s as well.

On Thursday, the victim continued to address the judge, in a courtroom comprised of the families of victims, some of whom attended virtually. The Morning Sentinel’s policy is not to identify victims of sexual assault.

“I want all the mothers to know not to blame yourselves, because you thought you were doing what’s best for us and you trusted him. It’s no one’s fault but his own,” he said.

Paul Cavanaugh, assistant district attorney of Somerset County, said his office knows the first victim was a regular patient and the second victim he “understood that Keenan had seen him as a patient at least once.” The two victims in the case were only identified by their initials; one of them is described as autistic.

“In small towns, the physician’s assistant is the town doctor,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m sure everyone in town knew he was the local doctor.”

During testimony Thursday, the first victim added that now, as a father of five children, he has “become a better person today, even through the damage,” and thanked Keenan for “making me who I am, making me think the way I do and for making me protect my children, because I realize who is out there today.”

Last month, as part of the plea agreement, the state dismissed 19 of the 23 counts on the indictment and instead pursued two counts of unlawful sexual contact and two counts sexual abuse of a minor. There were two victims listed in court documents, each under the age of 14 at the time of the assaults.

Keenan will also lose his physicians assistant license and must comply with a lifelong sex offender registration, effective immediately.

Both sides were pleased with Thursday’s outcome. Keenan’s attorney, Eugene Sullivan, said in a phone call following the decision that it was an “excellent matter of resolution” for his client, after a long and difficult case, which included around 10 motions filed throughout by the defense.

“We were able to negotiate the 23-count indictment down to 19 charges, there were certain errors during the evidentiary process that came to light,” Sullivan said. “We did a lot of negotiating back and forth.”

Meanwhile, the prosecution acknowledged that though this is in-line with the courts, there is no best-case scenario for the victims of Keenan’s abuse.

“Philosophically, there’s not enough time, there’s no fair enough sentence for what he did to these kids,” Cavanaugh said. “Within the court system, yes, this is in line and typical, maybe even a little heavy, with a 17-year sentence.”

Keenan was initially arrested in February 2019 in New Orleans after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted a young patient over a three-year period nearly two decades ago in Jackman. Following coverage of his arrest, another victim came forward, resulting in additional charges.

His initial arrest led to a charge of gross sexual assault; in 2017, he had contacted the victim through Facebook and acknowledged the assaults and apologized. A Facetime call was then arranged between the two, the victim recorded the call and sent that along with the Facebook messages to Maine State Police.

Months after this initial arrest, in September 2019, Keenan was arrested following indictments handed down by the Somerset County Grand Jury, where he was handed 21 counts related to sexual contact or assault on two preteen boys in Jackman, where he worked in the late 1990s. Keenan was indicted on three counts of gross sexual assault, 14 counts of unlawful sexual contact and four counts of sexual abuse with a minor.

Cavanaugh said after leaving Jackman, Keenan also had stint at a hospital in Mount Desert Island, where he worked with sports teams and then lived in Pennsylvania and Arizona before moving to New Orleans, where he was arrested.

“This guy was a guy who they were supposed to trust,” Cavanaugh said of the victims. “The first plea involves conduct that happened in 2003, almost 20 years ago. To overcome the evidentiary hurdles, the memory hurdles … the cases presented unbelievable challenges and we’re proud that we have the policies and procedures in the office to let us get there, because (Keenan) needs to be removed from the public.”

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