Avoyelles DA dismisses charges against Vincent Simmons after being granted a new trial, freeing him after nearly 45 years at Louisiana State Penitentiary

Vincent Simmons is a free man after his charges were dismissed.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 3:21 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2022 at 12:45 PM CST
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AVOYELLES PARISH, La. (KALB) - After nearly 45 years in Louisiana State Penitentiary, Vincent Simmons is a free man. He was convicted in 1977 of the aggravated rape of 14-year-old twin sisters - a crime he said he did not commit.

On Monday, Avoyelles Parish Judge William Bennett granted a new trial at a hearing, a monumental legal feat. During the hearing, Judge Bennett made it clear that Vincent Simmons was not given a fair trial when he was convicted in 1977.

District Attorney Charlie Riddle dismissed the charges against Simmons with the consent of the women, Sharon and Karen Sanders. Riddle said while he believed there was enough evidence to convict Simmons again but “for what purpose” would he make the women go through another trial?

Riddle also reiterated the fact that this decision does not mean Simmons is innocent, saying, “just in case anyone has any doubt, no this is not a declaration of innocence at all.”

According to court records, the original trial happened 60 days after the allegation and Simmons was convicted in one day. He was convicted nearly 45 years ago.

Judge Bennett granted this motion because of new evidence that came to light throughout the years of Simmons being in prison, namely the photograph of him being in handcuffs during a police lineup and secondly, the medical records of Sharon and Karen Sanders, the twins that didn’t show any signs of assault, as well as some other testimonies from other witnesses in the case.

The reaction when Judge Bennett granted that motion to retry the case and when Riddle said they would not retry the case was an eruption of joy and cheers from family and friends of Simmons.

Simmons himself was kind of quiet, likely in shock, When asked what kept the faith for him through all those years of behind bars, he said: “God, God kept the faith for me.”

Vincent Simmons on what kept his hope alive in prison: "God kept hope alive in me. God did this for me today."

Posted by KALB News Channel 5 on Monday, February 14, 2022

Karen and Sharon Sanders had this to say after the case:

“Because we’ve had enough. We’ve fought for 44 years, we’ve had enough, we’ve got 44 years, we’re happy with that. We’re tired. We want it behind us. He went in guilty, he’s still guilty and he’ll die guilty. We’ve got our 44 years, praise God!”

Karen and Sharon Sanders

Simmons’ attorney, Justin Bonus, also shared his thoughts after the hearing:

“This is the first time he’s ever received justice. And I think Judge Bennett said it on the record and God used Judge Bennett to cut him loose. For 28 years his petitions were being denied. The 16 other years that he was in there, that evidence was being withheld from. Think about that. And what I think people really need to think about is it could be you, It could be you, right? People don’t think about that like that. This type of thing could be done to him, you could be framed and in 60 days thrown in prison for 100 years. That is shocking.”

Justin Bonus

WATCH: Here's Vincent Simmons' attorney, Justin Bonus, about the decision this afternoon to free his client. He talks about what the decision means for him and what's next for Simmons. Simmons spent nearly 45 years in Angola for the attempted aggravated rape of twin girls - a crime he said he didn't commit.

Posted by KALB News Channel 5 on Monday, February 14, 2022

After the hearing, Simmons was taken back to Angola where he was discharged and is now a free man.

#BREAKING Vincent Simmons is officially free. After serving nearly 45 years at Angola, he was able to walk out of the prison tonight. He will turn 70 years old this week.

Posted by KALB News Channel 5 on Monday, February 14, 2022

The following is Charlie Riddle’s statement in court:

“Your honor, this matter has been going on for 44 years with nearly 2 dozen filings. Tony Salario and I have had personal involvement for nearly 20 years. If this matter would go to trial, it would have to be for only the attempted rape charges. All other charges that could have been brought have prescribed. He can no longer be charged for Attempted Murder for pulling the trigger of the pistol while aiming at a deputy. He can no longer be charged for kidnapping.

“After the new trial, when found guilty, it is doubtful that the sentence in today’s justice system would be for more than forty years. That would be what we would recommend. We offered this previously, but Louisiana law requires sex registration even though that law did not exist in 1977.

“We believe that we have sufficient evidence to find Vincent Simmons guilty. Yet, for what purpose? These two victims of these horrible crimes do not need to undergo the trauma of another trial. Nor do they need to be victimized again, which occurs so often in rape trials. They have been through enough. The Deputy who was the victim in the attempted murder is satisfied. The attorney bringing up no blood, no evidence of sexual assault when no one was capable of DNA in 1977 is just spouting words to again do what happens in many rape cases. That is, attack the victim and cause them to be traumatized again. It is no wonder that many sexual assault victims never want to come forward and never want to testify.

“The CBS story said the medical report said no evidence of sexual assault, when actually that exam was two weeks later, and the report said the hymen was intact. Rape only requires slightest penetration.

“We will not appeal this decision, nor take a writ. Based upon all of this and with complete consent of the victims, the District Attorney is asking to nolle prosquethe charges which would allow Mr. Simmons to be freed from the Department of Corrections immediately. Just in case anyone has any doubt, no this is not a declaration of innocence at all. We attempted to free him months ago because he has served enough time.

“Let this case be put to bed and the victims free from suffering again.”

DA Charlie Riddle

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