Before a 51-year-old Greenbriar man was sentenced in court last week for exposing himself to two Clifton girls, ages 7 and 4, their mother took the stand and spoke of the terrible impact his behavior had upon her children.
"It's affected our family very deeply," she said, crying. "There's not a day that goes by when we don't think about what happened. My two little girls' innocence was taken from them."
Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Smith then sentenced Jerome Anthony Fleming, of 13205 Pressmont Lane in Chantilly, to three years in prison.
Exposing himself to the children once was bad enough, said their mother — who Centre View is not identifying, to protect the identities of her daughters — but he did it twice. Both incidents occurred in January in the Fair Lakes Shopping Center.
THE GIRLS WERE SHOPPING with their family at the Target store, Jan. 10, when they noticed a man walking toward them and staring. He wore a green coat, his pants were unzipped and his penis was out.
Then on Jan. 29 in Wal-Mart, the same two girls were in the watch department when the older girl saw the man again and recognized him from before. He was wearing the same coat and, again, was exposed.
The first time, the girls didn't tell their parents until two hours later, so the man got away. But the second time, the mother also saw him and police were notified immediately. They arrested Fleming, charging him with indecent liberties with a minor. He later pleaded guilty, returning last Friday, Sept. 5, for sentencing.
With her husband and two daughters in the courtroom, the mother asked Judge Smith to punish Fleming appropriately: "We've raised our girls to know that we'll believe them and, as parents, we'll support and protect them in all they do."
Said the mother: "My [older] daughter knew it was the right thing to do to say, 'Mommy, it's him,'" she told Smith. "And now we're trusting you and the prosecutor to protect them and all the little girls that this man can affect."
Defense attorney George Freeman called Dr. Hans Selvog to testify on Fleming's behalf. Selvog is clinical director of the Augustus Institute, which treats sex offenders, and he evaluated Fleming after his arrest.
SELVOG SAID FLEMING received group and individual therapy at the facility and, in a Sept. 3 report on the Chantilly man, Selvog wrote, "After each time he exhibits, he loathes himself." He also testified that, "After the incidents, over the years, [Fleming is] filled with guilt and shame." But until his arrest, said the doctor, Fleming had never disclosed his problem to his family.
Selvog wrote that "Fleming was shocked to learn that his behavior had scared and frightened" the children. "It was the first time he'd ever had to deal with the fear and consequences of his behavior," said Selvog. "He's had a difficult time facing his shortcomings — the difficulties in his life."
Noting that Fleming has "underlying issues of anxiety and depression," he said the Greenbriar resident was "very motivated to solve his problem." And in his report, Selvog listed specific things Fleming could do to help himself. If he did them and also continued to have the support of his family and friends, said Selvog, then Fleming "should do very well in the future."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Adriana Eberle had just one question for the doctor. "Has the defendant looked for help prior to this incident?" she asked. "No, he hasn't," replied Selvog. Eberle then asked the judge to give Fleming a stiff sentence.
"HE EXPOSED HIMSELF to two, young girls," she said. "Nothing I can say could be more powerful than [what was written in] the victim-impact statement — how going to the mall and sleeping now cause them anxiety and fear — fear of seeing him again while out shopping or in their nightmares."
Stressing that "a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence happened [twice] within 2 1/2 weeks," Eberle said that's why Fleming should be punished accordingly. "He's a danger to these girls and to society."
"He's [exposed himself] — by his own account — for over 20 years," she said. "But he actually did it when he still lived in New York — and he moved from New York to Virginia when he was 13. This is a lifetime for this defendant. I ask you to incarcerate him for a long period of time."
However, Freeman said his client wouldn't be a threat to children on the street, as long as he followed the guidelines Selvog had set out for him. "He didn't target the girls and didn't even recognize them [when he saw them, the second time]," said Freeman. "He says he's never touched anyone and he's never threatened harm to anyone. Allow him to continue his treatment, and I don't think he'd be any problem."
Fleming then stood and spoke before sentencing. "I can't tell you how sorry and ashamed I am for what happened," he said. "And I want to personally apologize to the [victims'] family."
But Judge Smith had the last say. He said one of the things judges consider when sentencing someone is general deterrence to others in the community, as well as how to prevent the person from repeating his or her criminal behavior. Rehabilitation is also taken into account, he said, but so is punishment.
"AND WHEN [the crime] involves children, it becomes more serious," he told Fleming. While acknowledging that Fleming had no criminal record, he said, "Two children have been seriously harmed by your actions. You did indeed expose yourself to children, and the fact that you're horrified [at the girls' reaction] indicates to me that you have a lack of insight into others' feelings or a lack of consideration. You think of other people as objects."
Furthermore, said Smith, "You knew you had a problem, but you never did anything about it until you were caught." He then sentenced Fleming to three years in prison, followed by four years active probation plus mental-health and sex-offender evaluations. Fleming will also be listed on the sex-offender registry.
Then, addressing the girls, the judge said, "I really am proud of you for doing the right thing and for being so brave. We're going to get this man the help that he needs. It's because of you that [he] will be punished so he doesn't do these bad things again."
Afterward, their mother said she was "thankful that [Fleming] got jail time. I'm happy that the judge read the impact statements and took them seriously."