Scranton teen sentenced in indecent liberties case after pleading to amended charge

After first facing charges in April that could have put him in jail for more than 25 years if he had been convicted, a Scranton teen was instead sentenced Thursday to two years in a youth correctional facility and one year of probation.

Caleb Flowers, 18, had entered a no contest plea in June after being charged as a juvenile on one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. In April, Flowers had been charged as an adult with two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one count of aggravated criminal sodomy, crimes that would have been punishable under Jessica’s Law by more than 25 years in prison if he had been convicted.

In a hearing June 27 in Osage County District Court, Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones said the original charges had been dismissed as part of a plea agreement, and Flowers had instead been charged as a juvenile.

That complaint alleged Flowers lewdly fondled or touched a juvenile 14 years old but less than 16 years old in June or July of 2010. Flowers was 15 at the time of the charged incident. Presenting the factual basis of the charge, Jones said Flowers and the victim engaged in sexual acts with each other.

Before Osage County Magistrate Judge Taylor Wine sentenced Flowers at Thursday’s hearing, the judge inquired about two amended complaints Jones filed this week in Osage County District Court.

Jones said the complaint to which Flowers had pleaded had an error in quotation of the statute. The amended complaint filed Aug. 5 alleged that the victim was less than 14 years of age at the time of the crime. Another amended complaint filed Aug. 7 corrected an erroneous date in the complaint.

Flowers’ court appointed attorney, William Bayne, indicated that he and Flowers agreed with Jones’ filing of the amended charge. It was noted that the amended charge increased the severity level of the crime from a level 4 person felony to a level 3 felony, categorizing Flowers as a violent offender instead of a serious offender.

Reviewing the amended complaints, Wine asked Flowers if he was willing to withdraw his no contest plea to the original juvenile charge, and if he was prepared to enter a plea to the amended charge. Flowers agreed he was, and the judge accepted his no contest plea and again adjudicated him as a juvenile offender.

Wine also offered Flowers an opportunity to have another predisposition investigation, saying the first investigation was based upon the original juvenile charge. The judge noted the change in the charge could subject Flowers to longer time in custody. The lesser charge had a maximum sentence of 36 months; the more severe charge could result in imprisonment until the offender turned 22 ½ years old.

Bayne said his client did not want to go through another predisposition investigation.

“He would like to get this over with,” Bayne said.

With no response when the judge asked if anyone wished to speak on behalf of the victim, Wine committed Flowers to 24 months in a juvenile correction facility, with credit for time served in the county jail, and 12 months of aftercare, which the judge described as intensive supervised probation. Flowers has been held in Osage County Jail on $125,000 bond since April.

The judge also heard arguments from the prosecution and defense about whether Flowers would need to be publicly or privately registered as a sex offender for five years. The judge has the discretion to allow for private offender registration that is only accessible to law enforcement or public registration that is open to everyone.

Jones said the state was seeking a public registration, noting Flowers was no longer a juvenile and was almost 19 years old.

“He was also in a position of trust in this case and took advantage of that position,” Jones said, adding that parents and the public should know about Flowers’ offender status “so they won’t place him in position of trust again after what happened.”

Jones said later that Flowers’ position of trust was as a leader or mentor in the DeMolay organization.

Bayne argued that Flowers would undergo 24 months in custody, followed by 12 months of aftercare, plus five years of registration, which did not need to be public.

“If Mr. Flowers can and does comply with the strict reporting requirements, he would not be a risk to society and publication would not be necessary,” Bayne said.

Bayne said Flowers had expressed issues about sexuality, “that’s something he can’t help, but there’s no doubt he explored these issues inappropriately.

“He’s learned from it, he’s ready to submit to his punishment,” Bayne said. “He’s young; he’s intelligent; he could turn his life around. Reporting without publication would help with his reform.”

After hearing the arguments, Wine ordered Flowers to publicly register as a sex offender upon release from custody and ordered him to undergo sex offender treatment while at the youth correctional facility.

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