In 2005, 15-year-old Ashley was facing trial in Manhattan Family Court for lying to police after she told officers she didn’t know who had assaulted her on the way to school.
As she waited in the court’s holding area for her court appearance, juvenile counselor Tony “Tyson” Simmons came up to the handcuffed girl, took her in an elevator to the building’s basement, and raped her.
Moments later, Ashley — who’s withholding her last name for fear of reprisal — was in the courtroom being sentenced to 12 months in prison for filing a false police report. This week, Simmons was sentenced to 10 years’ probation for the sexual assault on Ashley and two other teens.
The verdict was “a travesty gross enough to make a blind statue cry,” argues an editorial at the New York Daily News.
Ashley’s ordeal was described in detail in Sunday’s Daily News:
[Ashley] 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.
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.
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 got 12 months for a falsified police report and he got probation for raping me and the others,” said the now 20-year-old Ashley. “It’s just ridiculous.”
Manhattan’s district attorney feels the same way.
“This was an egregious breach of the public’s trust,” Cy Vance Jr. said, as quoted at DNAInfo. He called Simmons’ sentence — the lightest possible under New York law — “outrageously lenient.”
Tony Simmons was a juvenile counselor with New York City’s Department of Juvenile Justice for 16 years before he was brought up on multiple sex assault charges in 2008. He pleaded guilty to raping Ashley, as well as raping a 16-year-old in a pantry, and assaulting a 15-year-old in a waiting area. Simmons will be on probation for 10 years and is required to register as a sex offender.
“Investigators believe the assaults go back a decade to the rape of a 13-year-old in the holding area,” the Daily News reported. It’s not clear whether any charges were ever brought in the case of the 13-year-old.
On Wednesday, the Daily News reported that prosecutors “never objected to a no-jail plea deal” for Simmons.
Prosecutors had demanded jail time for Simmons, a veteran employee of the city Juvenile Justice Department who worked with troubled teens.
But according to a transcript of Monday’s hearing, the assistant district attorney in charge of the case offered no objection to the plea deal.
“Your Honor, it’s my understanding that the defendant … is willing to plead guilty in exchange for a promised sentence of probation,” Amir Vonsover told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cassandra Mullen.
An anonymous source told the Daily News that assistant DA Vonsover did object to the lenient sentence, but only in an off-the-record conversation in front of the judge’s bench.
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