(Jezebel) - A New York City juvenile justice counselor raped at least three teenagers in his custody. His sentence? Probation. Meanwhile, one of his victims was sentenced to 12 months on a minor charge. How could something like this happen?
Tony Simmons is also known to have raped at 13-year-old in a holding area, as well as a 15-year-old who was sodomized behind a locker, which The New York Daily News says was "stocked with condoms and cookies."
His third victim was Ashley, who posed for the picture above (she said "I'm only scared of one man, and he already knows what I look like," and declined to give her last name, which she changed with marriage.) She was fifteen, on her way into court and being escorted by Simmons, when he took her to the basement and raped her. He placed finger over his lips to demand her silence.
She said, "I knew I was just raped. I knew it wasn't supposed to happen. I didn't think anybody would believe me."
Her 12-month sentence, she told The Daily News, was for filing a false report by telling the police she did not know the person who had attacked her on the way to school.
Ashley had hope that her attacker would be apprehended, and even named her child after the prosecutor, but he only managed to get probation for Simmons — from a female judge, no less — despite the fact that the original charges carried a maximum sentence of eight years. Why?
Partly, it's a systemic problem. As Lindsay Beyerstein points out, [Prosecutor Amir] Vonsover faced a strategic dilemma. If he offered a plea deal that carried serious jail time, Simmons and his lawyer might have preferred to take their chances in court. Vonsover probably agreed to a watered-down punishment because he wasn't sure he could get a conviction of the case went to trial.
That might have been a good call on Vonsover's part. Realistically, a jury might not have believed a black teen prisoner accusing a white court officer of rape with no witnesses and (as far as I can tell from media reports) no physical evidence. Simmons could easily have walked. He might even have gotten his job back. If Vonsover hadn't struck some kind of plea deal, Simmons could still be out there raping girls.
There is strangely little reporting on this topic besides The Daily News, though the district attorney has lambasted the verdict, calling it "an egregious breach of the public's trust. While a judge has the responsibility to decide what he or she thinks is a fair sentence, in our view today's sentence of probation is outrageously lenient given the admitted conduct."
Also of that opinion is New York City's branch of NOW, which has started a petition on the victims' behalf, asking, "If we cannot deliver justice for these three teen victims who were assaulted on the premises of the Manhattan Family Court building by an employee assigned to protect them, how can we expect justice for any women victims of violence?"