A Waldo County man will have time to consider whether to withdraw his guilty plea to scalding a 3-year-old girl in a bathtub after a judge rejected a sentencing agreement reached between the district attorney’s office and defense that the judge said was not sufficiently severe.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm noted the injuries suffered by the girl, now 5, were horrific.

Christopher E. Riley, 31, of Searsport, was in Knox County Superior Court in Rockland on Thursday, Aug. 4 for sentencing for aggravated assault, assault on a child and trafficking in oxycodone.

The injuries to the child occurred in May 2009 in Searsport.

Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker told the court that Riley was watching his stepdaughter and put her in the scalding hot water for a bath about 15 minutes after he had smoked marijuana.

Riley later gave conflicting statements to police about the incident but later admitted he knew that the water was too hot and when the child screamed, he simply covered her mouth.

When other family members returned home and saw the child, she was rushed first to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, then Maine Medical Center in Portland, and finally the Shriner’s Hospital in Boston where she spent three months.

Walker said doctors could not say how long the girl was in the scalding water. He said there was a faulty hot water heater that provided water of up to 159 degrees. He noted, however, that Riley was aware of that problem and had acknowledged having been burned himself from the water.

The girl has undergone numerous operations, including skin grafts and will require more grafts probably for another 16 years until her body stops growing.

Walker said the state does not have proof that Riley intended to injure the child but is contending that he should have known and was reckless in not realizing the danger. He acknowledged that Riley is of limited intelligence.

Riley dropped out of school in the ninth-grade after being expelled for not following the rules. He has little work history and has applied for Social Security disability.

Walker and the defense agreed to a sentence of eight years with all but three years suspended, to be followed by three years of probation.

Riley spoke briefly to say he was sorry.

The child’s grandmother gave an impassioned plea to the judge, calling for a harsh sentence because of the extent of injuries to the girl. She detailed how much pain the child was in and later how the girl said she did not want to go to school because “she was afraid Chris would be there.”

Riley was initially released on bail following his arrest for the offense. He pleaded guilty in May 2010 to the aggravated assault and assault against a child in exchange for a sentence of four years with all but one year suspended. The district attorney’s office withdrew that plea agreement after Riley was arrested for the drug charge earlier this year.

Riley has been held in jail since his arrest in April on the drug charge.

Riley pleaded guilty at the Thursday hearing, but based on the plea agreement reached with the prosecution. Defendants have the right to withdraw their plea if the sentence imposed by the judge will be greater than the agreed-upon deal.

Riley has a record that includes a domestic violence assault in 2007.

Hjelm said he was not sure if the district attorney’s office agreed to the sentence recommendation because it was concerned about the child having to testify. The judge said, however, that the facts of the case call for a sentence near the maximum of 10 years that is possible for aggravated assault.

No date was set by which Riley was to decide on whether to accept the judge’s sentence or withdraw his plea and go to trial.

The hearing was moved to Knox County for scheduling reasons.