Tri-State flashers: A frightening glimpse at indecent exposure

WATCH: Tri-State flashers

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - It can be humiliating and terrifying --  a flasher exposes himself to an unsuspecting victim.

FOX19 NOW Investigates has learned there are "serial flashers" in the Tri-State. What might surprise you is how little time they spend in jail.

One repeat offender is James Robinson, a Cincinnati man who has a 29-page rap sheet in Hamilton County. He's been convicted multiple times for on charges related to public indecency.

"Mr. Robinson, I see him more times than I see some family members, that's how often he comes down to court," said Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard.

Bouchard says Robinson is a serial flasher, who can't help himself.

"He obviously can't help himself," he said.

In fact just last month, Bouchard sentenced Robinson to 30 days for a disorderly conduct related to Robinson exposing himself in a women's restroom at Washington Park. Less than 24 hours after pleading guilty in that case, he was arrested again for exposing himself to a woman outside her OTR home. At Robinson's trial for that charge, the victim testified.

Prosecutor: "Did you want to see his private parts?"

Voice of Victim: "No."

Prosecutor: "How did it make you feel when you did?"

Voice of Victim: "Uncomfortable, I have small children."

"I've given up on him, he comes down too much, he's just a max guy," he said. "The first time this happens we try to put them on probation, our probation department has sex counseling. If we keep seeing them come back, then we just have to protect the public. We have to keep them locked up as long as we can because that's all there is to it."

And the maximum sentence Bouchard could dole out for the public indecency charge was 90 days in county jail.

The reality is flashers usually serve little time in jail, anywhere from a few days to a few months.

In Ohio, public indecency is a misdemeanor. The statute defines public indecency as when a person in public recklessly exposes their private parts, or engages in sexual conduct or masturbation. Public indecency is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. The second conviction is a misdemeanor of the third degree. On a third offense, a defendant with two prior public indecency convictions would face a misdemeanor charge in the second degree or, if any person who was likely to view and be affronted by the offender's conduct was a minor, a misdemeanor of the first degree. Only if the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to three or more violations of the stature would the offender be subject to a charge of a misdemeanor of the first degree or, if any person who was likely to view and be affronted by the offender's conduct was a minor, a felony of the fifth degree. In that case, the maximum penalty is six months in prison.

For some serial flashers, like Robinson, court is a revolving door. They get right back out and re-offend.

Gerald Fornshell, convicted six times for indecency, is now accused again. This time police said he exposed his private parts to teenage girls at a Springdale Big Lots.

And while these indecency crimes happen in a second, they can leave a lasting impression. Just ask this Cincinnati woman, who says a man flashed her at the bus stop.

"It just makes you feel powerless, you're pulled into a sick situation and they're in control, you know," said Theresa Collini. "I definitely don't want my children seeing this. The law should be tougher on them."

Mike Allen, former Hamilton County prosecutor and FOX19 NOW legal analyst, explained public indecency offenders even serial flashers, aren't required to register as sexually-oriented offenders, because the Ohio Legislature considers the crime mainly a misdemeanor. So while you can look up registered sex offenders in your neighborhood, there is no way database to see if a serial flasher is near you or your family.

"Perhaps they ought to take a look at these repeat offenders and make it a more serious felony," he said. "Maybe require multiple offenders who've been convicted for this a number of times to register, but as the law currently stands, they do not."

It's a move Judge Bouchard would welcome.

"I wouldn't be opposed to it, but that's for the legislature to decide," he said.

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