Oct. 4-AUBURN - A Minot man, called a "serial sex offender" by a prosecutor, pleaded guilty Monday to multiple sex charges involving two children.
A prosecutor said Monday that Ralph Leach, 67, had admitted to authorities to having committed sexual misconduct against as many as seven children, but the charges to which he pleaded guilty Monday involved only two of them.
Leach was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury in December on a charge of gross sexual assault involving a person younger than 12, a crime for which there is no cap on the length of time he could be sentenced to prison.
By law, no portion of that sentence can be suspended.
The base sentence set by the Maine Legislature for that crime is 20 years in prison, Androscoggin County Justice Harold Stewart II explained to Leach in the courtroom Monday.
Leach entered an Alford plea to that charge, meaning he is not contesting the charge because he believes it's possible he could be convicted of the crime at trial based on the evidence prosecutors would be able to present to a jury or judge.
Leach admitted Monday to eight other sex charges involving two children: one was younger than 12; the other, younger than 14 at the time of Leach's misconduct.
The other crimes to which he pleaded guilty are four counts of unlawful sexual contact, visual sexual aggression against a child and unlawful sexual touching.
Six of those crimes are felonies, half of them punishable by up to 10 years in prison and half punishable by up to five years in prison.
One charge is a misdemeanor for which he could be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail.
Leach was charged with and pleaded guilty to gross sexual assault against a child who was 14 years old or younger, a felony that's punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Katherine Bozeman said Monday that the five crimes committed against the child under 14 happened one night in February 2021.
The child immediately reported the crimes to a family member, to whom Leach admitted his misconduct, Bozeman said.
Law enforcement officers were contacted.
"The defendant came in (to the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, where he) was interviewed by the detective sergeant and during which he confessed to the multiple sexual assaults against children and for conduct that he had been engaging in dating back to at least 1985," Bozeman said, "some as young as three years old."
The two children against whom Leach committed crimes and pleaded guilty Monday were interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties in Lewiston, Bozeman said.
Leach's criminal conduct against the child who was younger than 12 happened in 2010.
The statements of the two victims were consistent with admission made by Leach, Bozeman said.
She said Leach's incriminating statements to law enforcement officers involving most of the other victims were too vague to be able to file criminal charges or present evidence to a grand jury sufficient for an indictment.
During the plea hearing, Leach told the judge, "I am very sorry."
There is no agreement between Leach and prosecutors on a recommended sentence.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 6.
Meanwhile, Leach is being held without bail at the Androscoggin County Jail.