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Man Sentenced For Child Sex Assault

Peter W. Gusha at his arraignment in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on Nov. 17, 2010. (Valley News - Jason Johns)

Peter W. Gusha at his arraignment in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on Nov. 17, 2010. (Valley News - Jason Johns) Purchase photo reprints »

White River Junction — When Peter Gusha was asked if he had anything to say after he was sentenced to five years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting a Hartland girl, he simply said, “I’m sorry. I’m very sorry,” before being led away to prison.

The 53-year-old Springfield, Vt., man pleaded guilty to repeated aggravated sexual assault, a felony, earlier this year and appeared in Windsor Superior Court on Wednesday to be formally sentenced. As part of the plea agreement, a charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child was dismissed by the state.

Gusha was formally charged and pleaded not guilty in November 2010 after the victim first spoke about the assault to school administrators in Massachusetts in 2009.

The victim told police that Gusha raped her repeatedly between 2001 and 2005. (The charge reflects assaults that occurred between 2003 and 2005. The victim was between 8 and 10 years old during the time of the assaults.)

The victim’s mother told police that her daughter’s behavior began to change in the second grade.

“Before this she was a normal, sweet girl who loved to play. After this she became very angry and would not listen to anyone,” according to the police affidavit. School officials thought the victim had attention/deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes. The victim was known to Gusha, who lived in Hartland at the time of the assaults.

During an interview with police in 2010, Gusha said he was very upset about what he had done and repeatedly apologized, and blamed his actions on alcohol and drugs, according to a police report. When charges were first filed, Gusha was working as a maintenance man at Springfield Hospital.

Gusha had lived in Springfield since being release on bail in 2010, and the case dragged on for nearly three years. Once a defendant is out on bail, the defense has no pressing incentive to wrap the case up quickly, said Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill.

“The defense has a strong case to keep it alive for as long as possible because what is next could be a whole lot worse,” Cahill said after the hearing.

Gusha walked into the courtroom wearing black pants and a gray T-shirt on Wednesday alongside his attorney, Mark Furlan, who declined to comment afterward.

During the hearing, the victim’s mother and father gave statements. The Valley News is not identifying the parents to avoid identifying the victim.

In court, the mother said that her daughter, now in her late teens, has been in mental hospitals and hasn’t attended public school since the sixth grade. The victim has never attended a school dance, been on a date or attended a sleepover at a friend’s house, the woman said.

“Mr. Gusha took away something my daughter will never get back, her trust,” the mother said. “Because of your actions, we will never know what her normal would have been.”

Eight family members of the victim sat in the back row of the courtroom, many weeping as the mother gave her statement.

When the victim’s father stood up to speak, he ran his hand through his hair before breaking down into a sob and saying, “(She) will never be all right.”

After the hearing outside the courthouse, the mother said her family still lives in Hartland. She also said she thinks it’s unfair that Gusha only has to spend five years in prison when her daughter will be dealing with the psychological damage for the rest of her life.

In the courtroom, Judge Karen Carroll asked Gusha if he is willing to do the work that will be required as part of his sex offender treatment.

“Yes, I’ll do all I can get,” Gusha said.

Carroll added that when Gusha gets out of prison, he’ll be on probation, potentially for the rest of his life.

When the hearing was over, Gusha stood up, shook his attorney’s hand, waved to a man sitting in the corner of the courtroom and then walked to the back of the courtroom to be escorted to prison.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.