OMAHA — An Omaha man who begged a young boy he was sexually assaulting not to tell anyone because he was afraid to die in prison was sentenced Wednesday to 30 to 34 years.

William A. Harrison, 63, made a tearful apology to his family and the boy, who was not in court. He told Douglas County District Judge Russell Bowie that he “was truly sorry for what happened.”

Prosecutor Beth Beninato, her voice rising, then told Bowie “an apology just doesn’t cut it.”

Beninato said the fact that Harrison has repeatedly sought to conceal his actions and shift blame “goes to show what kind of person he really is.” She said Harrison had made the child a frequent target of sexual abuse starting when the boy was 8.

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“It happened routinely,” Beninato said. “It happened almost every chance (Harrison) had. He told the victim not to tell anyone because he was afraid of dying in prison.”

Police said the assaults occurred at Deb’s Day Care, which was operated by Harrison’s now-former wife near 83rd Street and Bedford Avenue. Debra A. Harrison no longer is allowed to provide care for any children other than her own, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said.

William Harrison, who was listed in department records as the day care’s secondary caregiver, originally was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. In exchange for a plea of no contest, the charges were amended to two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child.

He faced life in prison if convicted on the original charges.

Under state sentencing guidelines, which generally cut sentences in half, Harrison will be required to spend at least 15 years in prison before being eligible for parole. He will be granted mandatory release after 17 years, at which time he would be 80 years old.

During an interview at Project Harmony, the boy told police that Harrison had been sexually assaulting him for four years. The boy said Harrison performed oral sex on him and molested him orally and anally. The assaults occurred at the Harrison home, he said.

Officers spoke to Harrison at his home, and he admitted to the assaults, according to a court affidavit. The day care held a license for up to 12 children.

Although a defense attorney noted that Harrison had no previous criminal charges other than a traffic ticket, Beninato rejected the contention that Harrison was a low risk to reoffend.

“His lack of a criminal record means nothing,” she said. “I am asking for the maximum (sentence) because these crimes are heinous and egregious.”

kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

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