A 72-year-old retiree was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday after an emotional court hearing that centered on whether he should be punished for what he did nearly four decades ago or given credit for his good behavior since.

Certainly what Albert Riek did in the mid-1970s in Montgomery County was, as he said in court, horrible. He repeatedly fondled and performed oral sex on a family member who was younger than 10.

Riek was not arrested in the case until the victim and her mother came forward and spoke to police this year. The victim agreed to call Riek on a secretly recorded line — a call in which Riek admitted to the abuse from his home in North Carolina while his new wife sat next to him.

The case was notable for the way both the prosecution and the defense embraced the phone sting to make their points.

Prosecutor Dana Kaplan said that Riek appeared to make excuses for his actions — drinking too much, for example. But defense attorney David Felsen said the recording showed Riek expressing genuine remorse and telling the victim she should never blame herself.

Albert Riek (Courtesy of Montgomery County Police)

“It was nothing that you did,” Riek could be heard saying in the recording, which was played in court. “Let me put you at ease at that.”

The victim, now 45, attended the hearing and spoke, breaking down as she said the abuse started when she was 5.

“He terrorized me and had me living in fear,” she said. “The abuse I endured at his hands has impacted every facet of my life, every day of my life.”

She struggled with substance abuse and had trouble maintaining relationships. When her daughter was born, the memories of what happened to her were especially frightening. “I was overwhelmed by her vulnerability and helplessness,” she said.

In part because he was not charged at the time, Riek spent 46 years working at IBM, according to attorneys in the case, and has an otherwise clean criminal record.

He retired, remarried and confessed to his current wife what he had done.

All those things made an impression on Circuit Court Judge Michael Mason.

“Clearly, you are in fact a changed person,” Mason said.

The judge chose not to add any “suspended” time to the sentence and did not impose post-prison probation. Once Riek serves his time, he will be done. But Mason gave him the maximum amount of incarceration — five years — that he could under an earlier plea agreement between attorneys in the case.

“You have been able to walk among members of society as a free man,” the judge said.

Felsen, Riek’s attorney, said sexual abuse, at least based on statutes from the 1970s, is apparently not considered a crime of violence in terms of parole decisions. So Riek will be eligible for possible release after 15 months.

“We hope that after serving a quarter of his sentence, he will be released on parole,” Felsen said.