He listened to a probation officer testify about how, in varying degrees, he had done everything from fondle to rape six young girls.

He heard a prosecutor struggle to describe the incalculable damage he had inflicted.

And he was present when two of his victims addressed the court through tears, saying they blamed themselves for allowing Babson to not only sexually assault them, but their sisters and friends as well.

Finally, it was the defendant's turn to speak.

"I don't care what half the people think in this world," Babson, 42, told Bennington District Court Judge David Suntag. "I am going to appeal this so it won't be over. If I have my way, we'll be back at trial again. And again and again and again. And it won't be over."

But for now, at least, it is.

Suntag responded by sending Babson to prison for 40 years to life, one of the longest sentences the judge has ever handed down.

"It's not just a question of punishment here," Suntag said at Thursday's hearing. "It is purely a question of protection of the public."

Babson, a former North Bennington resident, was convicted last November on two felony counts of sexual assault. The state took the case to trial after a jury acquitted Babson of two related charges in February 2004.

But Deputy State's Attorney David Fenster reminded the court that Babson had told an 11-year-old victim that he was raping her "because she was bad."

Babson performed "degrading, horrific sex acts" in a way that "couldn't be more humiliating," Fenster said.

Babson also molested friends of that victim, according to police. The girl, now 13, testified that she had been consumed by guilt.

"When this was happening to me I felt really bad because it was happening to my friends and I felt like I shouldn't have any friends because stuff might keep happening to them and it would be my fault," she said

Suntag wondered aloud how Babson could rob his victims of their childhood. Alluding to a confidential presentence report, Suntag said Babson had experienced the same thing as a boy.

"If there is anybody who should understand how this affects children, I'd hope it would be you," he said to Babson. "That actually makes it worse."

Suntag said Babson's refusal to take responsibility had left him without options. The judge said that in every single case that had ever come before him, he had searched for "something, anything" that indicated a chance for rehabilitation.

"There have been very few cases where I haven't found at least some glimmer, some possibility," Suntag said. "But Mr. Babson, I've just got to tell you, there isn't in this case. ... And that's a shame."

In addition to the sexual assaults, Babson has served time for assault and robbery, breaking and entering, and grand larceny. In one of those instances, a woman awoke to find Babson nude, armed with a knife and holding a pair of her daughter's panties, probation officer Daniel Charron said.

Babson also spent two to three years in the Vermont State Hospital for "anger management issues," Charron told the court.

More recently, Babson assaulted a fellow inmate in the Rutland jail. Charron said Babson threw the man on a bunk and simulated having sex.

"He told him if he was in a real prison he would rape him," Charron said.

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