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A district judge sent a Lincoln man to prison Wednesday for 35 to 40 years for molesting a fifth-grade girl.

Michael A. Ellis, 32, had pleaded no contest to sexual assault of a child.

Chief Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Paul Cooney said from the start of the case that Ellis expressed the deepest shame and remorse for what he'd done.

Ellis had no prior criminal history before this, he said, though in his late 20s he'd started using cocaine and his life "tumbled into a complete disaster."

The day of his arrest, Ellis had been awake for seven days straight, Cooney said.

In a letter written in jail, Ellis said he was sorry for the "senseless and wrong decision I made."

But Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Charles Byrd took issue with the characterization. This wasn't one bad decision on one day, he said.

"This was abuse that was going on over and over for six months," Byrd said.

He said it also only was reported because the girl's father discovered what happened after finding videos on Ellis' phone of his adolescent daughter naked.

In court records, police said they were called by the girl's father July 12, 2017, and interviewed Ellis about photos and videos of the girl on his phone.

The case involved more than two-dozen sexual encounters, the document says.

At sentencing, Byrd said Ellis needed to be punished for what he did and was a clear danger to the public.

Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman said he took into consideration a number of factors in reaching his sentence, including Ellis' remorse, the fact that he saved the state the expense of a trial, and the safety of the community.

With the mandatory minimum, Ellis will have to serve 25 years in prison before he's eligible for parole or 27½ before his mandatory discharge. He also will be subject to lifetime community supervision, the sex offender registry and a civil commitment evaluation before he's released.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or

On Twitter @LJSpilger.


Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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