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Admitted Child Sex Abuser Walks Free Because DA Shows Up to Court Drunk

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on December 24, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a bizarre twist, a charged child sex abuser walked free after the prosecuting attorney showed up drunk to the plea hearing, and then forgot to file for a continuance. Based on the snafu, charges against the defendant were dismissed because he wasn't afforded a speedy trial. Now that prosecuting attorney is out of job, and may find herself behind bars, on a different but somewhat related charge.

Simmerman Came to Court to Plead Guilty, Walked Away a Free Man

Dennis Michael Simmerman, from Murray, Iowa, had been in jail for fifteen months, awaiting trial. Back in 2017, he had been charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy and disseminating obscene material to that minor by telephone back in 2017. Simmerman agreed to a plea deal in October, which would have required him to register as a sex offender.

At the plea hearing, Michelle Rivera, the prosecuting attorney, appeared to be having difficulty standing and was slurring her speech. The judge cited her for intoxication; Rivera pleaded guilty, and paid a $65 fine. The judge did not allow the hearing to move forward that day, and the next day, prosecutors missed the deadline to file for an extension in the case.

Consequently, Simmerman requested that his charges be dismissed for being denied his right to a speedy trial. The judge granted the dismissal, and the sexual abuse charges cannot be re-filed against Simmerman. Defendants do have the right to request a dismissal if not put on trial within one year, and Zimmerman had already been in jail awaiting trial for fifteen months, primarily due to Rivera's unresponsiveness, at least according to Simmerman's lawyer.

Prosecuting Attorney Charged With Child Endangerment and DUI

Rivera was subsequently put on leave from her job. In November, she lost her re-election bid, and consequently lost her job. In December, Rivera was arrested for child endangerment. No, not for endangering the life of the sexually assaulted victim in the Simmerman case, or any potential future victims, but for endangering her own child. Rivera was stopped by officers on her way to drop her daughter off at daycare. She was arrested on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and child endangerment.

If you or someone you love has not been afforded a timely trial due to prosecutorial delay, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Though everyone has a busy schedule, everyone also has the constitutional right to a speedy trial. If your rights are being violated, a lawyer can help you, and possibly even have your case permanently dismissed.

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