AUBURN — Opening statements were given Thursday in the trial of 30-year-old William Lewis, who is accused of having sexual contact with three underage girls. 

In March, Lewis was arrested following an investigation at the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office. He was later indicted and charged with three felonies — first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of predatory sexual assault against a child — and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. 

At the time of Lewis' arrest, Cato-Meridian Central School District Superintendent Noel Patterson said Lewis had been employed as a mechanic's helper and substitute cleaner in the school district for over a year. However, deputies said Lewis' crimes were not connected to his employment with the district. 

On Thursday, Lewis appeared in plain clothes before the jury, which consisted of 12 jurors and two alternates. Lewis has been held without bail at the Cayuga County Jail since his arrest. 

In opening statements, Cayuga County Assistant District Attorney Heather DeStefano said Lewis had engaged in sexual behavior with three girls between the ages of 6 and 10. The abuse allegedly occurred in the towns of Victory, Sterling and Cato from November 2014 to March 2017. 

"This case is about an abuse of trust," DeStefano said. 

However, Lewis' defense attorney Donald Kelly refuted those allegations, stating there was no proof or credibility in the case. 

"It's impossible to prove something didn't happen," he said. "This case is based on someone's word and their word alone. ... It is a credibility determination based upon three young witnesses." 

In addition to questioning the girls' credibility, Kelly addressed a videotaped confession in which Lewis is seen admitting to the crimes. Kelly told the jury his client had been pressured to confess, saying Lewis simply "gave up" after hours of interrogation. 

Testimony was scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon. The case is being heard before Judge Thomas Leone. 

If convicted, Lewis could face 20 years to life in prison. 

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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