Nearly four years after Gary Simmons was charged with trying to murder a young woman in her Algiers bedroom, an Orleans Parish judge sentenced him this week to a 12-year prison term but only after threatening to gag him as Simmons acted up in the courtroom while his victim prepared to address him.
Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White ultimately booted Simmons from court Wednesday, and the woman spoke to an empty chair.
Reading a prepared statement, she chronicled a series of delays and 18 trial dates since Simmons was charged in June 2012, three months after the attack. She also noted her disapproval of the deal Simmons’ attorney, Ike Spears, struck with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office.
The woman then urged an absent Simmons to better himself behind bars.
“I prepared it specifically for him to hear. I wanted to ask him why he did it,” she said. Then she realized she “wasn’t going to get that (chance). He wasn’t going to take accountability.”
Simmons, 32, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempted murder in the assault at the woman’s home on Vallette Street, along with battery and contraband counts for a jailhouse attack last year.
The woman told police she awoke to find Simmons standing beside her about 3:30 a.m. March 2, 2012. He briefly flicked on the light, and she saw he had a red bandana over his mouth. He stabbed her in her neck, stomach and twice in her left arm, according to a police report.
“Let me go. I’m at the wrong house,” Simmons told the woman after she grabbed him in an attempt to keep him from fleeing, according to the woman.
She later identified Simmons, known as “Crip” for his pronounced limp, as her likely assailant in a photo lineup.
She was hospitalized for her wounds and said she continues to deal with the emotional scars.
Later the same day, Simmons held another woman at knife point on an Algiers street and walked her to a grassy area, where he told her he planned to rape her, authorities alleged.
That woman broke free and ran screaming into a neighbor’s house, a police report states. But she died this year, and prosecutors this week dropped kidnapping and attempted rape counts against Simmons from that incident.
Simmons assaulted a fellow inmate at Orleans Parish Prison in June and was found with a shank, according to prosecutors.
White sentenced him to 12 years on the attempted murder charge, eight years on a battery count and five years on a contraband charge, the latter two charges stemming from the jailhouse incident. The judge ordered all the sentences to run concurrently.
Simmons complained loudly in court, both about the length of his sentence and the racial makeup of those in attendance, before White threatened to gag him and then sent him out.
After returning for his sentence, Simmons apologized to the judge for “having my feelings disrespected in the courtroom.”
White noted that the victim was “not happy” with the sentence, “but I took this (plea) anyway.”
Spears declined to comment after the hearing.
The target of the assault, who asked to remain anonymous, described the attack as “shocking. I was like, ‘Who are you? Why are you in my house?’ I was just stunned. I was asleep, and the next thing you know, I’m being attacked.”
The sentence offered her only temporary peace, she said, noting that Simmons gets credit for the four years he’s already spent behind bars, leaving him eight more to serve.
She said she felt a criminal justice system prone to delay had failed her. Simmons’ prosecution was among the 30 longest-languishing cases in the criminal courthouse, records show.
Simone Levine, director of Court Watch NOLA, cited the case as an example of what the local watchdog group has labeled a “culture of continuances” at the courthouse.
“A four-year delay in any case is terrible, let alone a violent felony offense where a young woman was traumatized by the offense,” Levine said. “Where cases continue to be delayed, witnesses and victims normally stop coming to court. It was only due to the strength of the witnesses in this case that that did not happen.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.