PITTSFIELD — Whispering "I love you with all my heart," and "Never give up," to a group of family and friends, George Shurtleff was led away in shackles to begin a 10- to 12-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a teenage girl.
Shurtleff, 54, of Adams, was sentenced in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday on rape and assault charges, following his Nov. 23 conviction by a jury.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Rachael Eramo, who prosecuted the case, called it, "a tragedy on every level," and that the trial was painful for all the parties involved.
Several members of Shurtleff's family and a neighbor gave tearful statements in court, all stating their unwavering belief in his innocence.
"He's in jail for something he never did," one said. "We will not stop fighting for what we believe in," said another.
One called the verdict and sentence, "a bum deal."
Eramo read a brief statement from the victim, who elected not to appear in court for Shurtleff's sentencing.
"Why did you make me do those things? Why did you take my childhood away? I deserve to know why," part of her impact statement read.
Shurtleff was convicted of sexually assaulting a girl, beginning in February 2011 when she was 13 and continuing until November 2013.
Eramo said Shurtleff created a quid-pro-quo type of arrangement with the child in which he'd allow privileges in exchange for sexual favors.
Shurtleff's attorney, Nathaniel K. Green told jurors at the beginning of the trial that much of the evidence was disputed and suggested the victim may have had ulterior motives for making the accusations.
Jurors took about three hours before delivering their verdict last week, convicting Shurtleff of one count of rape and abuse of a child aggravated by an age difference, three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child 14 or older.
Shurtleff was held at the Berkshire Jail and House of Correction pending his sentencing hearing Monday.
Judge John Agostini adopted the agreed-upon recommendation of 10 to 12 years, with credit for the eight days he spent in custody while awaiting sentencing.
He will serve his sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction.