|Ashley, rape survivor|
Just how flagrantly, atrociously, catastrophically broken is the US’s criminal justice system when something like this is allowed to happen?
15-year-old Ashley had no inkling of what was to come on the day in 2005 when she was in Manhattan Family Court on a minor charge.
"You want to believe everybody's good, everybody wants to help you," she told me last week.
A hulking juvenile counselor named Tony Simmons led her in handcuffs from the girls holding area to the elevator.
She expected Tyson, as Simmons was called, to bring her up to the courtroom where she was scheduled to be sentenced for filing a false police report.
Instead, the elevator descended to the basement. The 42-year-old counselor pulled down her pants and raped her with calm, practiced precision that made him all the more terrifying.
"He knew exactly what he was doing," Ashley said. "Everything."
When he was done, Simmons pulled her pants back up and the elevator ascended to the courtroom. He raised an extended index finger to his lips in a mute command for her to say nothing.
"I was very scared," Ashley said. "I was terrified. He was a very large man."
Just moments after being violated, Ashley was seated next to her mother and before the judge. She was too shocked and terrified to report the attack.
"I knew I was just raped. I knew it wasn't supposed to happen," she recalled. "I didn't think anybody would believe me."
She kept silent as she was found to be a juvenile delinquent and sentenced to 12 months. She says her only crime was initially reporting to police she did not know who had jumped and cut her on the way to school.
Simmons continued to prey on teenagers in his custody until 2008, when a 15-year-old girl came forward to say he had sodomized her behind a locker in the girls holding area, which he stocked with condoms and cookies. Investigators believe the assaults go back a decade to the rape of a 13-year-old in the holding area.
"Just the tip of the iceberg," Assistant District Attorney Amir Vonsover said in 2008, when Simmons was indicted for three sex assaults.
On Sept. 27, Simmons appeared in court and pleaded guilty to raping Ashley and sexually assaulting two other teens.
He received probation.
"I got 12 months for a falsified police report and he got probation for raping me and the others," Ashley said on Friday. "It's just ridiculous."
How did this happen? Seriously, how in the damndest hell could a man be found guilty of multiple counts of rape and receive what amounts to less than a slap on the wrist, especially when a mere false police report filing earned one of his victims a full year behind bars (a sentence that eventually grew into roughly thirty-six months)? I know that the word of minors isn’t worth any more than that of the local mental patient or drunkard, but this isn’t a case where a victim filed charges and her account was contested. Simmons was declared guilty on several counts. That he received any less than a decade in jail is ridiculous. That he actually received probation, a penalty you could receive for saying bad words to someone in some cases, is unthinkable.
Thankfully, Ashley lives a full and happy life today, pulling perfect scores, getting a diploma from a “prestigious university” and living comfortably with a husband and infant son. That, at least, is the silver lining in stories like this, when the victim is able to overcome what has happened and pulls their life together, sometimes wonderfully.
Unfortunately, it’s just not always the case. And now with Simmons on the loose, it’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen to his other victims (and, perhaps, future ones).
(via The Agitator)