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AUBURN — A 71-year-old Auburn man will likely spend two years behind bars for repeated sexual contact with a young girl. 

In Cayuga County Court Thursday morning John Stevens, of 83 Fitch Ave., pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, a class D felony.

Judge Thomas Leone said that between May 2013 and July 2017 Stevens engaged in two or more acts of sexual conduct with a child. During that time frame, the girl was about 6 to 10 years old.

"In all honesty, I'm aware of what the offer is, and I'm a little concerned about it," Leone said, referring to the plea-deal offer of two years in prison and 10 years post-release supervision on the table for Stevens.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Heather De Stefano said that "thankfully" in this case the abuse was only two instances. The girl's family was OK with the plea deal, she indicated to Leone.

After about a five minute private in-chambers conversation with Stevens' defense attorney, Rome Canzano, and De Stefano, Leone said the court would go along with the plea deal.

While pleading guilty, Stevens admitted to abusing the girl twice in the four-year period.

Stevens is due back in court March 28 for sentencing. As he remained free on $5,000 cash bail, Leone warned Stevens that if he isn't present in court he could impose the maximum sentence — seven years in prison with 10 years post-release supervision.

Also in court

• An Ira man charged with two sex crimes tripled his likely prison time by disappearing for two years. 

Austin Bierce, 24, of 11698 Farnam Road, pleaded guilty in court Thursday to third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sexual act, both class E felonies.

Leone said the two offenses occurred in 2016 with two different victims. Two years ago, Leone said Bierce's defense attorney, Simon Moody, worked out a shock probation deal with six months in jail and 10 years post-release supervision. That offer, Leone said, is no longer on the table.

"You disappeared from this jurisdiction for two years," Leone said, saying a bench warrant was issued for Bierce in January 2017 and he was picked up again this January. Leone offered the minimum sentence for the charges if Bierce pleaded guilty to both counts. De Stefano said the 2016 offer of six months was acceptable to both victims' families.

"Austin realizes he only has himself to blame," Moody said.

While pleading guilty to his rape charge, Bierce admitted to having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl in January 2016. He then pleaded guilty to his criminal sex act charge by admitting to engaging in oral sex with a 16-year-old girl in March of that same year. Bierce was 21 at the time of each crime.

While the maximum sentence is four years in prison with 10 years of post-release supervision, Leone said he will likely sentence Bierce to 1.5 years in prison and three years of post-release supervision for each count. The sentences will run concurrent and orders of protection will be put in place for the victims. Bierce is due back for sentencing March 28.

• A Moravia man pleaded guilty to intending to manufacture meth. 

Brendan Johnson, 28, of 23 E. Cayuga Street, Apt. 3, was found in possession of lithium batteries, instant ice cold packs and Sudafed with intent to use them "to unlawfully manufacture methamphetamine," Leone said.

Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine, a class E felony.

The proposed sentence for Johnson was two years in prison and two years post-release supervision with a Willard sentence, De Stefano said.

"I'm not totally sold on the Willard sentence," Leone said after reading that from 2009 to 2011 Johnson was convicted of four burglary related felonies and one felony for criminally possessing stolen property in Tompkins and Cortland counties.

Leone said he would need more documentation from Johnson's defense attorney, John Price, to feel comfortable with a Willard sentence.

Johnson continued to be released on his own recognizance and is due back for sentencing March 28.

• A Ledyard woman was sentenced to prison for violating her probation. 

Stacey Earl, 33, was originally charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class D felony, in 2017. Probation Officer Nick Flanigan said he's seen Earl make "make a lot of progress in her life," but said she admitted to a probation violation in October, and a second violation was filed in December.

Flanigan said it was "concerning" that acts continued despite already violating her probation.

"I've known Stacey for just about my entire career as a judge," Leone said. "We did give her a break, but it seems it's just not clicking."

Leone sentenced Earl to two years in prison and one year post-release supervision with a shock camp order.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

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