Nicholas Adam Bolton told a York County judge he didn't rape a 7-year-old girl, but he pleaded no contest to a single charge of child rape anyway.
"I believe the commonwealth put together sufficient evidence (to convict)," the York man told Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy during his plea hearing on Tuesday morning.
Bolton, 27, told Kennedy he was afraid of spending more than two decades in prison, if a jury convicted him.
"I wanted to take it to trial so bad," he said. "But 24 years?"
A negotiated plea agreement calls for Bolton to serve 10 to 20 years in state prison, which the judge noted is at the bottom end of what the state considers a standard-range sentence for the crime.
The agreement also calls for Bolton to serve five years of probation after being released from prison.
Defendants who plead no contest are not admitting guilt. Rather, they are saying they will not contest the charges against them. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.
Evaluation: His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17, to allow time for the state Megan's Law sexual-offender assessment board to evaluate whether Bolton should be deemed a sexually violent predator.
York City Police allege Bolton raped a 7-year-old girl -- the daughter of an acquaintance -- on May 27, 2011, at a home on Kings Mill Road.
Senior deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner said a blanket the girl had been lying on at the time was sent to a state police crime lab, where DNA testing determined seminal fluid found on it came from Bolton.
A witness also saw a portion of the alleged rape, the prosecutor said.
Bortner said although it was a solid case, he felt a plea agreement was the best way to guarantee a lengthy prison sentence for Bolton.
'A gamble': "Because of the young age of the victim, she had trouble describing the attack," Bortner said. "Any time you go to trial, it's a gamble."
The girl also has expressed fear about taking the witness stand, according to Bortner.
"It spares her the grief and stress of testifying before her attacker," he said.
Bolton's public defender, Janan Tallo, confirmed her client was willing to enter a plea in order to avoid even more jail time, despite the fact that he maintains his innocence.
In exchange for Bolton's no-contest plea, charges of indecent assault and corruption of a minor were dropped.
Locked up: Bolton remains in York County Prison awaiting sentencing.
On April 16, his bail was reduced to $1, or what's known as "nominal bail."
In Pennsylvania, incarcerated defendants not brought to trial within six months must be released on nominal bail, not including any defense delays.
But although his bail was posted, Bolton wasn't released from prison.
Tallo said the York County Adult Probation Department required him to find a place to live that probation officers approved of, and Bolton was unable to do that.
-- Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at email@example.com.