Child Sex Abuse Suspect Was Set to Plead Guilty — but Walks Free After Prosecutor Showed Up Drunk
Dennis Michael Simmerman, 23, had agree to plead guilty to third-degree sexual abuse and disseminating obscene material to a minor by telephone, but now he will walk free
An Iowa man accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in 2017 was released from custody on Monday after the prosecutor handling his case was cited for being drunk in court.
PEOPLE learns from online court records that Dennis Michael Simmerman, a 23-year-old Murray resident, had been charged with third-degree sexual abuse and disseminating obscene material to a minor by telephone for alleging sending inappropriate images to the alleged victim, who he was accused of sexually assaulting.
Simmerman, who spent 15 months in jail before his release this week, had agreed to a plea deal back in October, his attorney told the Des Moines Register, that would have required he register as a sex offender.
But on Oct. 18, moments before Simmerman’s scheduled plea hearing, the prosecutor, Clarke County Attorney Michelle Rivera, was cited by a judge after arriving to court intoxicated.
Rivera, who was apparently having difficulty standing and was slurring her speech, pleaded guilty to the courthouse intoxication and paid a $65 fine, according to court records.
The following day, prosecutors missed the deadline to file for an extension in the case, and now, because Simmerman was denied his right to a speedy trial, the charges have been dismissed.
The decision to drop the case was made by District Court Judge Martha Mertz.
“The county attorney’s unavailability at the last hearing was the finale following unexplained periods of inactivity and lack of responsiveness that prevented disposition of this case within one year,” Mertz said, according to the Des Moines Register.
Simmerman’s lawyer, Marshall Orsini, told the Register his client’s release was justified.
“If the defendant is not put on trial [and] is not tried within a year, you have the potential to have that case dismissed, and that’s what happened here,” Orsini told the paper.
Rivera lost her job in November, when she was voted out of office.
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Records show Rivera was also arrested last week on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and child endangerment.
Officers stopped her as she was dropping her daughter off at daycare.
It was unclear Friday if she had entered pleas to the charges or had a defense attorney.
Attempts to reach her at home were unsuccessful.