Warner man sentenced to decade in prison for sexually assaulting child

  • Ricky Flanders of Warner confers with his attorney during his sentencing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Flanders was sentenced to 12½ years for sexually assaulting a boy at gunpoint between 1988 and 1993. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ricky Flanders of Warner arrives for his sentencing hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday after being convicted of sexual assault in February. GEOFF FORESTER Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Emotional court testimony Thursday painted a picture of a Warner man who had led a double life.

While some family members and close friends described Ricky Flanders as loyal, kind-hearted and trustworthy, others spoke of him in fear, accusing him of sexual assault and betraying their trust decades ago.

Flanders, 50, was back in court Thursday to learn his prison sentence for raping a boy at gunpoint on two occasions between 1988 and 1993 – and attempting sexual assault a third time. Two women, who say they were also victimized by Flanders as young girls, never reported to police; instead, they disclosed once learning the boy’s story years later, and they testified Thursday at the state’s request.

Despite the jury verdict in Merrimack County Superior Court in February, Flanders continued to profess his innocence from the defense table, telling his two children, who spoke in support of him, how much he loved them.

“I’m going through so much abuse and torture for something I didn’t do,” Flanders told Judge Richard McNamara after hearing the sentencing recommendations of state prosecutors and his defense counsel. “I can’t do time for a crime that I did not commit.”

That time will equate to a minimum of 12½ years in state prison. Prosecutors asked for a 20- to 60-year sentence, while the defense sought a minimum of five years.

Assistant Merrimack County Attorney David Rotman said the sexual abuse resulted in lifelong trauma for the victim, who was between the ages of 8 and 13 at the time. He said although Flanders may have been a “doting son,” there were other sides to him, as well.

“No one who commits offenses like these can truly be kind, your honor,” Rotman told McNamara. “The court needs to send a message to the community that when you rape a child on more than one occasion that the punishment is going to be significant, whether it was yesterday or a number of years ago.”

Rotman went on to say that the five-year sentence recommended by the defense would be a “travesty of justice” for the victim.

Public defender Hanna Kinne, who represented Flanders at trial, said her client maintains his innocence and has had a difficult time adjusting to a life of incarceration. She argued that a five- to 10-year sentence was a significant amount of time given the circumstances of the case, noting that the sexual assaults Flanders was convicted of happened long ago.

At the start of Thursday’s nearly four-hour hearing, prosecutors called two women to testify who said they were sexually assaulted by Flanders in the mid- to late 1990s, just a few years after the man they’d trusted abused the victim in the case at hand. One woman alleged Flanders had inappropriately kissed her and groped her breasts, and the second accused him of forcing her to touch his genitals.

After hearing the women testify, the male victim told the court he wants to make sure Flanders can never hurt anyone else.

“He’s hurt a lot of people, and something’s gotta be done,” the victim said.

The victim’s mother, who held her son close during Thursday’s testimony, said toward the hearing’s conclusion that she has seen a “big change” in him, and is concerned about his mental health and well-being. She said she believes the sexual abuse weighs heavily on his mind despite the passage of time.

A psychologist who evaluated Flanders after his conviction was the defense’s only witness Thursday, although many members of the defendant’s family made statements to the court. Jeff Stein, who has performed 125 similar evaluations, met with Flanders for a total of six hours, and concluded that he is not at great risk of reoffending.

But Rotman poked holes in Stein’s medical analysis, noting that the conclusions were based largely on information provided by Flanders himself. Rotman questioned why Stein had not reviewed the trial transcript, spoken with the victim or members of the Flanders family, or taken a deeper dive into Flanders’s criminal record before issuing a final report.

Stein said he felt he had sufficient information to reach a determination, although he noted that Flanders had not been completely truthful with him. Stein also said his risk assessment is not foolproof, and that he can’t predict with absolute certainty whether any convicted sex offender will reoffend.

The fact that no allegations of sexual assault have surfaced since those discussed Thursday makes the case against Flanders unique, McNamara said prior to issuing his decision. Nonetheless, he said, that did not downplay the severity of the crimes for which the jury convicted Flanders of this year.

It may be true that Flanders is a good father and spouse, McNamara said, but he added that it’s not uncommon for sexual predators to lead a “double life.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)