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A 50-year-old Buffalo man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday for committing sex crimes against a girl over a four-year period, starting when she was 12 years old.

Everton Smith of Stockbridge Avenue had faced up to 29 years in prison after a two-week trial in March in which a jury convicted him of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and third-degree rape.

“This was a long trial for the jury to listen to the horrific facts of this case,” Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case told Smith at the sentencing hearing. “How you could have destroyed her childhood and stole her innocence is astounding. It’s hard to even comprehend.”

During the trial, prosecutors Lynette Reda and Rosanne Johnson of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said Smith took advantage of friction between the victim and her mother. He told her no one would believe her, and his threats also kept the girl from revealing what had happened, at least for a while, the prosecutors said.

Smith told the child that all he had to do was say something to her mother and the child would no longer be able to live in Buffalo, according to court testimony.

“He would hold it over my head,” the victim said in court.

The child was not born in Buffalo but moved here when she was in elementary school.

The girl described for jurors her encounters with Smith, which began in 2007.

Smith did not testify in his own defense, but jurors watched a videotaped police interrogation in which he denied harming the child.

Smith did not speak at his sentencing Tuesday, either, but he maintained his innocence through his defense lawyer.

“Mr. Smith has relayed to me that he respects the decision of the jury but he is looking forward to his appeal and maintains his innocence,” said defense lawyer Daniel J. DuBois.

email: plakamp@buffnews.com