Wade Drew Brayman, 65, center, exits a courtroom Thursday at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast after being sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. Brayman was found guilty last year on seven counts of gross sexual assault in a case that involved mental, physical and sexual abuse. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel

BELFAST — A former Liberty man was sentenced Thursday to serve 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter.

Wade Drew Brayman, 65, was sentenced after an unusual series of hearings that lasted more than 17 hours over three days at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast.

Brayman was arrested in 2019 and charged with seven counts of gross sexual assault, one count of aggravated assault and one count of failure to comply with the sex offender registry.

He was found guilty by a jury in March 2023 of repeatedly sexually assaulting his stepdaughter several years earlier – while she was a juvenile and an adult – at his home in Liberty.

Brayman has a work history that includes China- and Winslow-area food pantries.

When handing down the sentence, Judge Eric Walker, who presiding over the case, said Brayman’s stepdaughter, Aria Sanborn, was subjected to “brainwashing” and “cult-like” abuse. The Morning Sentinel’s policy is not to identify victims of sexual assault without their consent, and Sanborn agreed to be identified by the newspaper.

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“Mr. Brayman was basically involved in isolating – mentally, physically, emotionally, religiously – Mrs. Sanborn,” Walker said. “The outside world was described by Mr. Brayman as an evil place, and that she should be fearful of it.

“The testimony for this trial was graphic, and I’m being kind when I say that. It was horrendous.”

Sanborn said she still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety as a result of Brayman’s abuse. During a brief statement during Thursday’s hearing, she quoted scripture and pleaded for Brayman to receive the strongest possible sentence.

“Forgive that person because the Lord forgave you,” Sanborn said. “I take that scripture and I put it in my heart. I forgive him. But as a Christian, I cannot allow injustice to continue.”

Brayman received a sentence of 25 years, with all but 20 years suspended, followed by four years of probation for one count of gross sexual assault. He received 20-year sentences for each of the other six gross sexual assault charges, and a five-year sentence for the charge of aggravated assault, all of which are to run concurrent to the first sentence. Brayman would be 85 years old when eligible to be released on probation.

Brayman claimed during his two-hour closing argument Thursday that Sanborn had fabricated her allegations. He said he was receiving unfair treatment because he was being handed an “effective life sentence” due to his age. He also claimed he faced discrimination while held at the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset for being a vegetarian.

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He acknowledged he had failed to register as a sex offender after moving to Maine.

Wade Drew Brayman, 65, appears for his sentencing hearing Tuesday at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Brayman was found guilty by a jury in March 2023 of repeatedly sexually assaulting his stepdaughter several years earlier – while she was a juvenile and an adult – at his home in Liberty. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel

Brayman has been in police custody since his arrest, and is now being held at the Knox County Correctional Facility in Rockland.

Bill Entwisle, the assistant district attorney in Hancock County who prosecuted the case, said Brayman treated Sanborn for years as a “sexual object,” and that Brayman exercised total control over Sanborn, from stipulating the people with whom she could socialize at school to what she wore and ate.

Due to the nature of Brayman’s crimes, Entwisle had initially sought a sentence of 34 years in prison, with all but 20 years suspended, followed by nine years of probation.

“These are Class A crimes,” Entwisle said. “There were multiple instances – almost countless – where the defendant demanded that he had sex. If the victim didn’t comply, she was forced to comply. She suffered physical and emotional abuse if she didn’t comply. That was how the defendant satisfied his desires. There’s no words for that.”

Brayman has a history of convictions for sexual assault against children. In 1994, he was convicted in Massachusetts on charges of rape of a child and assault and battery of a child younger than 14. He was sentenced to 383 days in prison, with five years of probation.

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In New Hampshire in 1996, Brayman was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 14. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Wade Drew Brayman, 65, left, appears for his sentencing hearing Tuesday at the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast. Brayman was found guilty by a jury in March 2023 of repeatedly sexually assaulting his stepdaughter several years earlier – while she was a juvenile and an adult – at his home in Liberty. Dylan Tusinski/Morning Sentinel

Thursday’s sentencing hearing took nearly five hours, continuing the drawn-out proceeding that had begun three days earlier.

Brayman was initially scheduled to be sentenced in November, but the decision was delayed after his eighth court-appointed lawyer withdrew from the case. The lawyers said Brayman criticized their work, withheld information and refused to communicate with those representing him in court.

Walker ultimately ruled Brayman would represent himself.

Brayman said Thursday he found the state’s proposed sentence unacceptable, instead proposing a sentence of 12 years, with all but four suspended.

Walker disagreed, noting that Brayman’s criminal conduct was repeated and reprehensible. Though he said Brayman’s health factored into his decision, Walker said his decision was influenced by the graphic nature of Brayman’s crimes and an obligation to protect the public.

“The amount of manipulation and selfish sexual conquest by Mr. Brayman of his stepdaughter is obviously extremely disturbing,” Walker said. “(Brayman) was her caretaker, her guardian and her protector. This case is, at its heart, about a violation of all those duties of care.”

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