AUBURN — A 30-year-old Cato man will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for sexually assaulting three preteen girls in Cayuga County. 

On Oct. 31, a jury found William Lewis guilty of three felonies: one count of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of predatory sexual assault against a child. He was also convicted of three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor. 

During the trial, Cayuga County Assistant District Attorney Heather DeStefano said that Lewis sexually assaulted three girls between November 2014 and March 2017. The abuse occurred in the towns of Cato, Victory and Sterling. 

A former mechanic's helper and substitute cleaner for the Cato-Meridian Central School District, Lewis was arrested in March following an investigation by the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office. DeStefano said Lewis' victims were between the ages of 6 and 10 when the abuse began; they were not connected to his work with the school district. 

On Thursday, Lewis appeared before Judge Thomas Leone for sentencing. DeStefano asked the court to impose the maximum sentence on each count — a total of 57 years to life in prison followed by 10 years post-release supervision. 

"He deserves every second of the maximum sentence," she said, noting that Lewis has continued to deny responsibility in the case. 

DeStefano said Lewis has accused the children of "making this up," despite overwhelming evidence against him. She also said he complained he was bored at trial, and was often seen doodling in a notebook or playing with a pen cap during people's testimony. 

Meanwhile, Lewis' defense attorney, Donald Kelly, said his client maintains his innocence in the matter. He asked Leone to sentence Lewis to a total of 25 years to life in prison. 

Lewis could be seen leaning back in his chair and seemed disinterested in the proceedings Thursday morning. When asked if he had anything to say to the court, he simply said, "No." 

"This was perhaps the most difficult case I've presided over," Leone said. "I have no respect or compassion for you." 

Leone sentenced Lewis to the maximum: 25 years to life in prison on each count of predatory sexual assault and 7 years in prison and 10 years post-release supervision for sexual abuse. Those sentences will run consecutive to one another for a maximum of 57 years to life in prison.

"(Lewis') conviction should send a loud and clear message that those who sexually abuse children will be held accountable for their actions," Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said in a press release. "We were pleased that the court agree with our assessment that stealing the childhood from three innocents deserved the maximum sentence." 

Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or megan.blarr@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr. 

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Crime and Courts Reporter