Former Brevard foster dad sentenced in child porn case

A former Brevard County foster dad, who sexually assaulted his adopted daughter, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison followed by 15 years of probation for downloading child pornography.

Robert Howard, 41, was a foster father to at least 36 children during the past 15 years. He was previously sentenced to only four years in prison for the sexual battery on his daughter, a sentence that forced federal prosecutors to step in and pursue a conviction on the child pornography charges. Since the Internet crosses state lines, downloading child pornography can be tried in federal court.

"We applaud the efforts of the United States Attorney's Office, who was committed to ensure this predator was held accountable," said Lt. Tod Goodyear of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

The sentence was handed down Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell in Orlando.

In 2005, Howard was arrested on 70 counts of sexual battery and dozens of counts of child pornography. But in 2009, he pleaded no contest in state court to one count of sexual battery on a child and one count of possession of child pornography. He officially was labeled a sexual predator.

The case first made headlines in 2005, when Howard was arrested and it became public that foster children had been removed from his home.

The Department of Children and Families allowed children to remain in the home years after Howard and his wife had lost their license to be foster parents.

After that, Howard and his wife, Margaret, had been allowed to adopt two girls -- one who would become his 12-year-old victim.