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A district judge sent a 49-year-old Lincoln man to prison for 42 to 53 years Thursday for sexually abusing two young girls, pointing to the need to protect the community.

Todd A. Knoell won't be eligible for parole until he is nearly 78.

Lincoln police arrested him in August following reports by two children, both younger than 12. Investigators asked Knoell about their allegations, and he admitted what he had done.

Knoell later pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault of a child and third-degree sexual assault of a child.

In court Thursday, Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Tim Eppler said Knoell had no explanation for his behavior and wants to get treatment that helps him understand what caused him to do this.

He said Knoell made it clear he didn't want the girls to be questioned or made to go through a trial.

"From day one, he has expressed nothing but regret and remorse for his behavior," Eppler said.

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Charles Byrd asked for a significant period of incarceration. Knoell has been deemed a high-risk to reoffend, he said, and had abused a position of trust with the girls and "took their innocence from them."

He said there were four victims, though court records mention two.

In an affidavit for Knoell's arrest, police said on Aug. 1 a 7-year-old girl said in a forensic interview that Knoell had forced her to perform a sex act multiple times over the past year. Two days later, a second girl said he had forced her to do the same.

Lancaster County District Court Judge Kevin McManaman said in determining Knoell's sentence he considered, among other things, the significant impact the crimes had on the victims, as well as the safety of the community.

"The nature of the offense is particularly weighty in this case. It just is," he said.

In addition to the prison term, Knoell also will have to register as a sex offender and will be subject to a civil commitment when he is released from prison.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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