A former juvenile justice worker was convicted Friday of molesting two girls under his care in a courthouse, but was acquitted of charges of raping a third girl.
The trial of Tony Simmons was closely watched by women's advocates.
His accusers testified that Simmons abruptly began fondling them after taking them aside in the Manhattan Family Court building. At the time, they were 15 and 16. His city Department of Juvenile Justice job entailed bringing the girls to court and supervising them there.
Simmons' lawyer said the accusers were troubled girls who made the allegations hoping to get out of custody or get a lawsuit payout.
The case sparked an outcry from the district attorney and women's rights activists, after Simmons pleaded guilty to rape and other charges in September and was promised a no-jail sentence. A judge rescinded the deal last month.
Jurors heard none of that, as Simmons' guilty plea had been voided.
They did hear from his three accusers, now young women.
One testified that he made advances that ended with her performing oral sex on him in a locker area. Another said he groped her in a kitchen after asking her to help him unload a cooler of food. Simmons "is a nasty dog. I have to get out of here," she wrote in a note to a female worker shortly afterward.
A third said Simmons raped her in a courthouse elevator.
Simmons preyed on girls who had problems -- one an admitted prostitute, another the daughter of a gang-member mother -- and figured they wouldn't tell or be believed, prosecutors said.
"He rolled the dice one too many times," Manhattan assistant district attorney Evan Krutoy said in a closing argument Thursday.
But Simmons' lawyer, Gregory Watford, told jurors the women's accounts were tainted by ulterior motives.
The accusers who described encounters in the locker room and kitchen were desperate to get out of juvenile facilities, Watford said. The third woman was trying to reap millions of dollars in a lawsuit against the city, he said.
"This case is all about credibility," Watford told jurors in his summation Thursday.
Simmons didn't testify at his trial. Before his guilty plea was scrubbed, he told probation interviewers the girls had enticed him, claiming one thanked him after he allegedly raped her, according to state Supreme Court Justice Cassandra Mullen, who initially sanctioned and then nixed his plea and promise of 10 years' probation. She said she changed her mind because Simmons showed a "disturbing" lack of remorse during the interviews.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had blasted the probation deal as "outrageously lenient," the Daily News had scorned it in an editorial, and National Organization for Women members and others had demonstrated outside the courthouse.
Simmons was suspended and then assigned to desk duty after the allegations emerged in July 2008, authorities said. He resigned in September as the Juvenile Justice Department was moving to fire him, the agency said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun