WFTV investigates why repeat child sex offenders stay out of prison



FLORIDA - WFTV found child sex offenders in Orange County repeating their crimes as many as four times and so far, they haven't spent one day in prison.

WFTV reporter Renee Stoll found sex offender Ronald Jordan at his home, which was not listed with the state. He was at his previous address, littered with children's toys.

"We're with Channel 9 News. We're here about him being a repeat sex offender," Stoll told a man who answered the door.

The man went inside the house to get Jordan, but he didn't come out.

Jordan was convicted three times of molesting children.

In March, he was charged again for raping a 15-year-old, yet he's never spent one day in prison.

The same goes for Richard Van Cleave.

Florelene Van Cleave was married to Richard Van Cleave when he was arrested in 2010 for having child porn on his computer.

"What do you think when you look at the family photo here? Or when you look at him?" Stoll said.

"I want to take it out," Florelene Van Cleave said.

Richard Van Cleave accepted a plea deal, and while on probation he was charged with molesting his stepdaughter.

"I was thinking that he was supposed to be put in jail, not on house arrest," she said.

Prosecutors said it's not always so easy.

"A lot of times these cases are not slam dunk cases," said Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra.

Barra's team has about 350 child molestation and abuse cases set for trial, although Barra maintains everyone she charges is guilty.

"I don't go into every case saying I want the max sentence possible. That's not our job. Our job is to get a fair resolution," said Barra.

Barra said sometimes that means probation instead of prison time.

Jordan was only 17 when he first offended, so the state considered his age.

"(We considered) whether or not this is someone who is a sex offender who wants to prey on children, or is this a teenager who may be just inappropriately exploring his sexuality," said Barra.

Barra said many factors influence decisions that allow offenders to avoid prison.

Victims are often very young, they forget details and a tough cross-examination can hurt the state's case.

"Maybe a jury will convict, maybe they won't. We really are essentially ruining someone's life by giving them sex-offender probation," said Barra.

Probation is supposed to limit where you can be at all times, although WFTV didn't find Jordan where he should be living.

"People say, 'Does sex-offender probation, does that ever even work if people are out and they can be in your community and potentially offend again?'" Stoll said.

"Well, sex-offender probation is like anything else. You could say the same thing about restraining orders," Barra replied.

Meaning, sex offender probation isn't foolproof.

Richard Van Cleave was serving five years of sex-offender probation when he offended again.

The state attorney's office told WFTV that offenders on probation are required to keep a log of where they drive.