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Sentence of 15 years to life set in sexual abuse

A Brooklyn ex-con dodged a more serious charge of raping a child when a jury last summer convicted him of sexual abuse. But Frank Flowers, 51, could spend the rest of his life in prison anyway.

Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case on Wednesday sentenced Flowers to 15 years to life in prison on the first-degree sexual abuse conviction.

The jury found Flowers guilty of sexual abuse but cleared him of predatory sexual assault against a child. Sexual abuse carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

Case sentenced Flowers to the longer term after determining he was a persistent felony offender.

Flowers served 10 years in state prison for a 1987 manslaughter conviction in Brooklyn. He also served 16 months for a 1982 drug conviction.

Prosecutors had accused Flowers of raping an 8-year-old girl early on New Year's Day on the living room couch of a Guilford Street apartment as the girl's mother slept in an adjacent bedroom.

"It's incomprehensible to this court that any man could do what you did to a girl so young," Case said.

"Your record would seem to indicate you have no regard for anyone in this world other than yourself," Case said, adding that "extended incarceration is warranted."

Joseph A. Agro, Flowers' defense attorney, said the persistent felony offender status was not appropriate.

"Twelve people of this community found him not guilty of the top count," Agro said.

None of the jurors was in the courtroom, but Flowers thanked them for their effort.

During a weeklong trial last August, prosecutor Lynette M. Reda stressed DNA evidence that she said linked Flowers to the attack. Agro accused the girl's mother of lying, questioned the conclusiveness of DNA evidence and noted nurses at Women & Children's Hospital who examined the girl found only a small bruise on her.