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A lovers-triangle spat has sent a Buffalo ex-con back to prison Wednesday.

Juan Luis Rodriguez, 28, will spend the next seven to 14 years in prison under a sentence for first-degree assault handed down Wednesday by Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury.

Before being sentenced, Rodriguez maintained his innocence and insisted it was self-defense when he slashed and permanently disabled his girlfriend's other boyfriend with a butcher knife.

Drury told Rodriquez that even though a jury acquitted him of attempted murder and robbery in the March 1998 attack that left Heriberto "Eddie" Carrero with a permanently disabled left hand, he still had to be punished for the "serious offense" of assaulting the fellow ex-con.

Rodriguez was convicted Feb. 8 for the March 31, 1998 knifing incident. He has been in jail since he was arrested on a fugitive warrant July 17, 1998. He was picked up by police after he went to the Erie County Medical Center for unrelated medical treatment.

Prosecutor John Benson Carle said Rodriguez slashed Carrero with a butcher knife after breaking into the East Lane apartment of their mutual girlfriend late on March 31, 1998, and finding Carrero sleeping in her bed.

Carle said Carrero was awakened as Rodriguez plunged a butcher knife into his right shoulder and suffered a permanently disabled left hand in fending off his attacker.

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