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Judge grants $100K bond for man arrested for molestation

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    Willie C. Cleveland

Arguments presented in a motion for bond for a Jones County man recently arrested on child molestation charges resulted in a $100,000 bond, with the condition that his whereabouts be monitored at all times.

Willie C. Cleveland, 66, was arrested Nov. 18 and charged with one count of child molestation and one count of aggravated child molestation. Cleveland was in Jones County Superior Court Dec. 1, represented by defense attorney Keith Fitzgerald, seeking bond.

Fitzgerald was the first to speak in the defense motion for bond. He told the court that he did not know much about the charges, but he did know the alleged victim recently turned 18 and decided to make a report.

The attorney said he does know about Cleveland, who had a large family presence in his support in the courtroom. Fitzgerald said his client grew up in Bibb County and built a home in Jones County. He said he worked 32 years for Central State and retired as a supervisor.

The attorney said each family member in the courtroom was willing to give a character reference for Cleveland, but to save time, he would proffer the information.

He said Cleveland coached baseball for 26 years and was well known in the community for his coaching success. He added that the defendant has no criminal history and has significant ties to the community.

“He is no risk to flee and no danger to persons or property; no risk to intimidate witnesses and no risk to commit crimes,” Fitzgerald stated.

The attorney added that his client is presumed innocent. He noted that the witnesses are all adults, and the alleged victim is 18 and can stay away from him.

“I think he is the perfect candidate for bond,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Cara Fiore prosecuted the case and had a different opinion about the bond request. She said the victim disclosed that the incident happened when she was 12 and included the showing of pornography that resulted in penetration.

Fiore said the victim told her mother about a month after it happened and after that they separated from the family. The prosecutor said there were others who were also molested by Cleveland, but those incidents were past the statute of limitations.

“I understand the family support. It’s not unusual, but that also lends to the risk of intimidation and influence by some family members who do not support the victim,” she said.

Fiore said she did agree that the defendant was not a risk for flight.

“If you are inclined to grant a bond, I ask it be high and he not be allowed around minor children,” she said.

Fitzgerald said Cleveland would be isolated, and the stay away order could be significant.

He went on to say that the seriousness of the crime is not a bond factor. “A large bond would not necessarily keep someone from committing a crime,” he said. The attorney said what happens with the rest of the family is not under his control.

The case was heard by Superior Court Judge Alison Burleson. She asked the defense attorney if there were any minor children who were be around Cleveland if he were released on bond.

Fitzgerald said Cleveland is a retired mentor and would not be around small children.

Burleson set bond at $100,000 and ordered him to wear an ankle monitor at his expense.

The defendant was further ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim or any child under the age of 18.

“No contact means no contact, including family members,” she said.

Burleson said if bond conditions are violated in any way, the defendant would return to jail.

Cleveland was arrested Nov. 18 and charged with child molestation and aggravated child molestation following an investigation by Jones County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Lt. Kenny Gleaton.

The investigator said information came to his attention about a month ago about the allegations. He said he was contacted by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department after the crime was reported.

Gleaton said the victim lives in Bibb County, but the crime was alleged to have taken place at Cleveland’s residence in Jones County. He said the case was referred to Jones County because of venue.

He said the victim recently disclosed that the child molestation took place six years ago, and at that time the victim was under the age of 13. A warrant was issued for Cleveland’s arrest following his investigation.

The lieutenant explained that there was one alleged incident but due to the nature of the offense, the two charges were warranted.