BRATTLEBORO -- A Brattleboro man says he will seek treatment in prison after admitting to lewd behavior in the presence of a juvenile.

Charles Muldowney, 33, pleaded guilty on Monday to a felony count of lewd and lascivious conduct. He was immediately sentenced to three to five years in prison.

All involved in the matter -- including the adopted mother of the victim -- praised Muldowney for taking responsibility for his actions.

"Certainly, the defendant's willingness to admit the conduct makes him a much better candidate to successfully participate in treatment and a much better candidate for reintegration into the community," said David Gartenstein, Windham County deputy state's attorney.

Gartenstein added that the plea also "has a positive effect on the child."

Muldowney was arrested in June 2012 after an investigation by Brattleboro police and the state Department for Children and Families.

The lewd and lascivious count to which he pleaded guilty on Monday was an amended count; the charge initially had been sexual assault.

Muldowney acknowledged engaging in "open and gross, lewd and lascivious behavior" with the child between 2008 and 2011 in Brattleboro. The Reformer does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

As part of Muldowney's plea deal, the state dismissed counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, cruelty to a child and violating conditions of release.

"This is a plea agreement that the state believes serves the interest of justice," Gartenstein told Judge David Suntag in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division. "Proceeding to trial in a sex-abuse case involving a small child involves potential harm to the child in terms of the need to communicate with her about matters that are extremely painful."

Defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere noted that his client already has served 19 months in prison since his arrest. That will count toward the prison sentence imposed on Monday.

"This conduct obviously is not acceptable, and he has accepted responsibility for it," Marsicovetere said.

Muldowney declined a chance to speak to the court prior to his sentencing. But when Suntag earlier had mentioned the possibility of treatment, Muldowney declared that "I plan on taking the programming."

The victim's adopted mother said the girl "still has trouble," but both she and Gartenstein noted that Muldowney's acknowledgment of his conduct seemed to have had a positive effect on her temperament.

As for the sentence, the victim's mother remarked, "that's what we want from this -- for him to get treatment."

Suntag noted that Muldowney's sentence is "close to the maximum" but added that it "gives you a chance to get treatment, which is a big deal."

"And it sounds like you're ready for that, which is even more important," the judge said. "It's clear that what you did was completely unacceptable."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.