FARMINGTON — A Wilton man pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexually abusing two girls younger than 16 between Feb. 1, 2011, and Feb. 1, 2012.

Peter J. Essman, 65, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to one felony count of unlawful sexual contact and one misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual touching. The state dismissed two other identical charges in a plea agreement.

Wilton police had received a referral from Maine Department of Health and Human Services in late January and launched an investigation, police Chief Heidi Wilcox previously said.

Essman was arrested March 8.

Justice Joyce Wheeler set sentencing for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 26.

The proposed sentence is four years to the Department of Corrections with all but one year suspended. After his release, he would be on probation for four years, Assistant District Attorney James Andrew said.

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Essman’s attorney, Walter “Woody” Hanstein, said the one year would be a cap for time served in jail. The intent is that Essman would serve the one year but it depends on what Essman’s cardiologist reports on his health. Hanstein said he may argue for less.

Under the proposed sentence, Essman would also have to register for 10 years on the Maine Sex Offender Registry as required by the Maine Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

If the case went to trial, the girls would have testified that Essman touched them unlawfully under the premise of giving them back rubs, Andrews said.

The girls are not from the area, Wilcox previously said.

Essman remains on the same bail of $1,000 unsecured bond. Conditions included no contact with the victims and no contact with children under age 16.

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