HOUSTON - They stalk local women, haunting victim after victim. But the I-Team discovered no matter how many times serial flashers get caught, they’re back out on the streets in no time.
Just ask Kirsten Miller.
“I remember every single bit of it,” she said. vIt was well past midnight and she was coming home alone. v“I turned the corner and he was standing right in front of my apartment,” Miller said.
He was staring right at her — a complete stranger, completely naked and touching himself. And that happened not once, but twice Miller said.
“It was a naked man paying attention to where I live, I’m by myself,” Miller said.
It was enough to give her panic attacks for months to come.
“My heart would pound, I would get really shaky,” she said.
The man behind her fear is Bradley Poling, 31. Harris County court records show Poling haunted other young women too — a serial flasher who struck at four different apartment complexes in Webster and Friendswood.
“He just stared at me,” said another victim, Jessica Griffith. Griffith said the creepiest thing was that Poling never said a word.
“He made direct eye contact, he didn’t want me to look away, he wanted me to see him, he wanted me to notice him, he liked getting that excitement,” Griffith said.
And Poling didn’t stop. In fact, police arrested him 10 times for indecent exposure in just a year and a half. vHis victims want to lock him up and throw away the key. But the I-Team discovered a problem. When it comes to sentencing repeat flashers, prosecutors say they’re handcuffed by the law itself.
”No matter how many indecent exposures you pick up, the range of punishment stays the same, capped at 180 days,” said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Claire Morneau.
Why is it a maximum six months in jail? Because the crime of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, is now what’s known as an “enhanceable” offense.
“So for instance, prostitutions, on your fourth prostitution you’re going to be charged with a felony. DWI’s, on your third DWI you’re going to be charged with a felony,” Morneau said.
And that means longer jail time, but as the law stands in the Poling case:
“There really was nothing else that we could do, even if we wanted to,” Morneau said.
And that holds true for dozens of other repeat offenders. The I-Team found offenders with two convictions, three convictions, all the way up to Filomeno Salas’s rap sheet, which shows he was convicted of indecent exposure a whopping 13 times.
The I-Team tried, but could not track Salas down. His neighbors were floored by the news.
“I’m appalled, you know I had no idea somebody could be walking the streets with that kind of record,” said Clarence Rembert.
And if there’s little consequence to this crime, both prosecutors and victims worry, it’s an invitation for something worse.
“It’s only going to escalate,” said Jessica Griffith. v“Is he going to take it to the next step,” questioned Kirsten Miller.
One serial flasher allegedly did. Authorities said John Skiles got more aggressive with a woman, and is now charged with attempted sexual assault.
“When it’s behavior that they don’t want to change and they’re not intending to change, they need something to change it for them,” Griffith said.
Back to Poling, the I-Team tried to talk to him on camera, but guess where we found him? In the Harris County jail. Again. And the charge? Another indecent exposure offense, with another young female victim walking to her apartment alone.