Patrick Doyle, 42, pleaded guilty to charges of child endangerment and witness intimidation during a hearing yesterday afternoon in Salem Superior Court, where Judge Leila Kern told Doyle he had sunk to the "absolute bottom."
"To stand by and watch a child be sexually abused by adults, to be sold into sexual slavery by her mother, is the gutter," Kern said of the incidents during the summer of 2004 in Salem and Beverly.
The case stunned even veteran police investigators, who literally walked in on one episode of abuse in a Salem apartment.
Police would come to learn that the girl's mother had traded sexual access to her daughter for crack cocaine.
But the judge also said Doyle's actions, while "reprehensible," were not comparable to those of two other men who were charged with actually abusing the girl, or to the actions of the girl's mother.
On the child endangerment charge, Kern sentenced him to five years of probation.
Doyle also admitted that he later tried to prevent a witness from cooperating with police. For that, Kern imposed a 21/2-year jail term but suspended all but one year of that.
He will become eligible for parole in six months.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Dunigan had asked for a prison term of four to six years.
"What he did was completely outrageous," Dunigan said.
Not only did Doyle stand by as the girl was abused, he went on to threaten Jill Pena-Contreras, the woman who went to police after seeing photos of the girl with another man, Richard Lapham. Lapham is now serving a 15- to 18-year prison term for raping the girl.
Dunigan called Pena-Contreras the girl's "savior."
Alerted by photos
It was Pena-Contreras who, while visiting Lapham's apartment in Salem in July 2004, was first shown Polaroid photos of Lapham with the little girl, performing sexual acts. She told a friend who at the time was a Salem police officer. He suggested she go back and get the photos, which she did.
Those photos gave police a basis to get a search warrant for Lapham's apartment. On a hot summer evening in early August, detectives showed up and walked in on a disturbing tableau: a half-dressed Lapham, who answered the door after some delay; a naked 9-year-old girl huddled under a blanket, her mother and autistic older brother sitting nearby; and a pornographic video playing on the television.