A Gloucester man was sentenced to three to five years in state prison Tuesday for what a judge called "a series of reprehensible events" involving efforts to lure 13- and 14-year-old girls to his home, where two girls were sexually assaulted.

"He's a 35-, 36-year-old man and these are 13-, 14-year-old adolescents and for him to do that is a very serious matter," Salem Superior Court Judge Thomas Drechsler said of Richard T. Reardon, now 38, just prior to sentencing him.

Reardon last month offered an unexpected, last-minute change of plea to one count of attempted rape, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and three counts each of indecent assault and battery, dissemination of obscene material to a minor and child enticement. 

What apparently led to the change of heart: One of the girls discovered an image in an old phone that she was able to give to prosecutor Jennifer Kirshenbaum.

That image, his attorney Joseph Keegan acknowledged Tuesday, "completely, 100 percent changed my case." 

The image depicts a nude Reardon, the judge said. 

"Those photos corroborate, in vivid detail, what he intended to do," said Drechsler during the sentencing. 

Prior to the discovery of that photo, Keegan admitted he had hoped to convince a jury not to believe the accounts of the three girls. The teens said Reardon enticed them to his home on Centennial Avenue with offers of drugs and alcohol. 

But he also again insisted he had no idea that the judge's offer, in 2017, of a house of correction term totaling 3 1/2 years had expired, describing his experience in other counties. 

Drechsler said he had notes reflecting that he'd told the lawyer that once he began challenging evidence through pretrial motions, the deal was off the table. 

"I set a deadline for him to accept the offer," said Drechsler. "The case has gone forward and things have changed." 

Kirshenbaum asked the judge to impose a six- to eight-year prison term, citing the seriousness of the charges. 

The prosecutor noted the girls were particularly vulnerable, coming from homes where, due to a variety of circumstances, they were not always supervised, including single parents. 

The sentence requested by Kirshenbaum falls within non-mandatory state sentencing guidelines, Drechsler acknowledged. 

But the judge said he was taking into account Reardon's lack of any other significant record, and his decision to plead guilty before trial, which was scheduled for later this month. 

Keegan asked the judge to consider honoring the original offer, which would have made Reardon eligible for parole after half his sentence and allow him to serve it in a county jail rather than state prison. He suggested it would be akin to "progressive discipline" for a man who has never been to jail before now. 

He also argued that Reardon has been confined to his aunt's 20- by 30-foot home elsewhere in Gloucester on house arrest, saying he's not even allowed to go outside after he violated his earlier terms of release by going to the Northshore Mall in Peabody. 

Following his prison term, Reardon will be on probation for four years, with conditions that include sex offender treatment, a GPS bracelet and registration as a sex offender, as well as an order that he have no contact with the girls. 

Reardon's family, which had submitted letters of support prior to sentencing, cried as the sentence was announced by the judge. 

The victims were not present on Tuesday, but a Gloucester police detective was on hand for the sentencing. One of the girls addressed the court in 2017.  

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, at jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.