BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday for sexually assaulting a girl under 13.

Alexander Beard, 33, was convicted in December of predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor girl.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Patton asked for a total of 21 years on the charges.

A long sentence is necessary, said the prosecutor, “to deter others from committing crimes against children of our community.”

Defense lawyer Brian McEldowney argued that Beard’s lack of criminal history should qualify him for the minimum sentence of six years for the predatory sex offense.

Judge Robert Freitag noted Beard had strong support from many people in the courtroom and, prior to the incidents last year, worked and lived successfully in the community.

But the sexual assault of children carries long-term consequences, said the judge.

Calling the assaults heinous, Freitag said, “These are the types of crimes in which children — the most innocent of victims — are affected and will be affected for life.”

Beard must serve 85 percent of the sentence.