BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A former volunteer firefighter from Tewksbury was sentenced to three to five years in prison yesterday after admitting to engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl who had accidentally sent him a text message.
David Avery, 33, pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and abuse of a child under 16, during a hearing yesterday in Salem Superior Court.
The sentence, which will be followed by five years of supervised probation, was the result of a plea agreement accepted by Judge David Lowy.
Avery was arrested in August 2010, days after the encounter in a wooded area off Highland Avenue behind the Target store.
About a month earlier, prosecutor Kristen Buxton said, the victim had accidentally sent a text message to the wrong number, which turned out to belong to Avery, a man she did not know.
But Avery responded, said Buxton, and the exchange quickly turned sexual.
The girl, whom Buxton described as “naive,” began thinking of Avery as a boyfriend and eventually agreed to meet him in Salem. The girl had told Avery her age, and knew that he was more than twice as old as she was at the time, said the prosecutor.
According to a police report, the pair went into the woods, laid out a blanket, and engaged in sexual acts, though not intercourse.
A few days later, the girl told a friend that she was worried she had become pregnant during the encounter because she felt nauseated. The friend urged her to tell her mother, and she did.
Defense lawyer Mark Schmidt told the judge that Avery had been cooperative with police after they contacted him, volunteering to be questioned at the police station.
He also said his client, while competent to take part in his court proceedings, has some intellectual limitations, according to a psychological evaluation he underwent while awaiting trial.
After he completes his prison term, Avery will be on probation for five years, with conditions that include no contact with the victim, no unsupervised contact with children other than his own, and a requirement that he wear a GPS bracelet to track his location. He’ll also have to register as a sex offender.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.