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Simmons' attorney vows appeal, cites jurors' pre-trial media exposure

Earl Key (top photo, Jacquetta Simmons leaving court with Ann Nichols following the verdict).

Lawrence Friedman

Asked if his client, Jacquetta B. Simmons, got a fair trial, attorney Earl Key said, "I'm going to appeal that, so we'll see."

Earlier, as reporters walked with him as he left the courthouse, Key declined to say on what basis he might appeal the conviction.

Expanding on the fair trial thought, however, Key said it's possible intense local and regional media coverage made it much harder to ensure Simmons had her case heard before a fair and impartial jury.

"I think the media coverage -- no offense to you guys at all -- definitely hurt her chances of a fair trial," Key said. "As you heard during jury selection, we didn’t have one juror that said -- well, we had a couple, but not very many – who said they had not heard about this case.

"Even the ones who were on the panel had said they had formed an opinion, but they said they could set that aside and be fair and impartial, and the judge accepted their word at that."

Simmons, the 27-year-old Batavia woman convicted today in Genesee County Court of assaulting a 70-year-old Walmart employee, will be sentenced Nov. 15.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman disagreed with Key's assertion.

"You were there for jury selection," Friedman said. "We went through an unusually large number of people to seat a jury. Obviously there were a lot of people who came through saying they had seen coverage, way more than we’re used to, and they had formed an opinion and, unfortunately, many people said they couldn’t set those opinions aside, and of course they didn’t wind up on the jury."

Key said he was obviously disappointed in the outcome of the case and that he firmly believes the video evidence presented at trial clearly shows a Walmart employee grabbing his client's arm and that she is trying to break free of that grasp when she strikes Grace Suozzi.

"In certain spots, the video is unclear," Key said. "I don't know that they (the jury) saw it the way I saw it."

Asked by a reporter if he thought Sharon Reigle, a Walmart customer service manager, lied on the stand about grabbing Simmons, Key didn't answer the question directly, but said, "She absolutely grabbed her arm, in my opinion."

During the trial there were several profane statements attributed to Simmons that were racially charged.

Some readers of The Batavian have questioned why Simmons wasn't charged with a hate crime.

Friedman said the facts of the case didn't fit the penal code, which requires that race be proven as a motivating factor in the crime.

"Clearly there were comments made, particularly later in the sequence of events, that relate to the race of the victim," Friedman said. "We didn't see necessarily that the crime occured because of the race of the victim."

Simmons was convicted under a relatively new New York statue that makes it a Class D felony for a person 10 years younger than a victim who is 65 or older to assault such a victim.

Originally, Simmons was also charged with the more straightforward assault in the second degree charge, which requires proof of intent to cause serious physical injury.

Prior to the start of the trial, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge Simmons with intent to cause serious physical injury, so he reduced the charge to a misdemeanor of assault, 3rd.

Without the enhanced assault 2nd charge, the so-called elder-abuse statute, Friedman would have been left with no choice but to prosecute Simmons on the misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

While such crime enhancements are often controversial among civil libertarians, Friedman said any time there are additional ways to charge a perpetrator with a crime it "helps keep society safer."

"I think it's appropriate for obvious reasons," Friedman said. "You're dealing with more vulnerable victims, either young children or older adults, who are more vulnerable to injuries that can be much more serious. So from my perspective, it's absolutely appropriate."

Simmons turned down a plea bargain several weeks ago that would have capped her sentence at three-and-a-half years in state prison with an available sentence to Judge Noonan of straight probation (no jail time).

Now she's facing a sentence that ranges from probation up to seven years in prison.

Mark Brudz
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Yada Yada Yada, they are going to appeal, who would have guessed (Sarcasm)

After viewing the films, isn't going to change things...

tim raines
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Simmons attorney must be doing bath salts with his client. She doesn't remember and he's hallucinating.

Jac--Quett--A is getting at least 3.5 years in the big house.,.

And a girlfriend.

John Roach
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He went along with the jury selection. Sounds like they just want to get a bit more money out of her.

Dan King
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Not fitting the requirements for a hate crime? I'll bet if a young white woman punched an older black woman, the requirements would have been met.

Autumn Connolly
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Of course Key saw the footage on the tape differently, he is protecting his client. I bet he was the only one to see it that way.

Kyle Couchman
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LOL Autumn he was so dead set against the video being released to the press for good reason. Now theres no way to deny the facts. His tactic of telling people what to see just isnt working with the public. I guess his Jedi mind trick is a lil rusty.

KIM WILLIAMS
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I saw the whole thing and what I saw was..... They fought over the bag and receipt , Jac got pissed, pulled her arm back, made a fist and lam basted her with full force. There's no ifs ans or buts about it. She quilty and should just own up to it. When she did that I had instant tears for her. I couldn't believe that she could do that to someone. If you would have just cooperated and just showed the freaken receipt, none of this would have happened. But you didn't and now lives have been ruined for who knows ow long. I call you a coward!

Mark Potwora
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Who is paying for her lawyers.....she has no job no income...is this also on the taxpayers dime...

John Woodworth JR
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As stated above they agreed on the jury selection. The media attention was probably the video footage that Mr. Keys did not want as evidence. If the Appeal is denied I will not be surprise if, they play the race card. Heck, I am surprise they have not play it already. Mr. Key and Ms Nichol are probale pressing for more money. The video shows it cut and dry. Simmons was not trying to pull away she knew what she was going to do. The punch was intentional because, she like others find it offensive when ask to show a receipt. I know it is a lot of effort to show receipts and in violation of our rights (sarcasm).

Billie Owens
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If Keys found the pre-trial media coverage polluted the pool of possible jurors, why didn't he ask for a change of venue beforehand?

Kyle Couchman
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That the point I have made too Billie and John....I dont see how Keys is gonna file an appeal based on that premise. He and the prosecution took a whole extra day going thru an unusually lrg amount of witnesses. As for playing the race card in trial, it is my belief that Keys conciously avoided it because it would open the door for the prosecution to use Jaquetta's racist statements as well. As it was the day I was at the trial it seemed that when the witnesses mentioned her "white" comments that both Friedman and Keys left those statements alone like a hot potato. But again thats just the impression I had.

John Roach
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Kyle,
He can file the appeal on that or anything else he wants. He has that right. Your question should be will the court go for it.

Kyle Couchman
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LOL John thats what I meant.... I'm sure he will file a bunch, but lets hope he is as successful as he was supressing the release of the video to the media.

Autumn Connolly
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It is offensive no matter what the color of a person is to call out on someone Else's race, no matter what. leave the color out of it and stick to the actions is the best thing to do.

Paul Witkowski
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WHY??? Is Judge Noonan not treating this as a hate crime??? and allowing a sentence to fit the same...I guess we will wait for the outcome.

Paul Witkowski
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One factor maybe the incompetence of the trial judge.

Billie Owens
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By no means is Judge Robert C. Noonan incompetent. Do some homework. Even if you disagree with his verdicts, he is well respected among his peers and widely regarded as a meticulous instructor of juries and someone willing to provide second chances.

DA Friedman already explained that, under the law, this crime did not fit the criteria for a hate crime as set forth in the penal code, because the primary motive was not racially based.

Simmons was upset that she was asked for a receipt, she exploded and reacted violently, according to prosecutors. She did not punch Grace based on her color or age. But under the new statute, regardless of motivation, the fact that she struck a senior citizen over the age of 65 will require a harsher penalty.

If you feel there are particulars which are unfair and incorrect, feel free to take action with the courts or lawmakers.

John Roach
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Paul,
Maybe you have to get your head out of your rear.
First, the judge does not file the charges, the DA does. And the DA explained that under the law, this did not fit a hate crime. The law, no matter if you like it or not, states that in this case, race would have to be the reason for the crime. It's clear that the crime was not committed by hate, but loss of control.

Doug Yeomans
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I waited to comment on this thread in order to give myself time to digest the outcome of the trial. I'm thinking that if Miss Simmons would own up to what she did, make an apology, confess to hitting Grace and show remorse, it might go a long way in her favor, at least in the long haul.

She says she hasn't slept a single night all the way through since she punched Grace in the face and I think that's because she knows exactly what she did and feels guilty as hell for it.

Instead of expending so much time and money and soul sucking energy, why don't you just come clean, Jacquetta? You claim to be a church going christian but here you are denying everything in the face of God. That makes you a hypocrite and a sinner. Admitting your wrong doings is the right thing to do and it will lift so much weight off of your chest and shoulders, not to mention off the chest and shoulders of grace Suozzi.

Change your life by changing your attitude. Accept your fate and punishment. It's good for your soul and the soul of everyone else.

John Woodworth JR
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Probable safe to say that, you are correct with your impression.

John Woodworth JR
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Wow Doug, very true. However, MS Simmons may be trying to play a sympathy card to distort the jury to believing she has been unable to sleep and feels terrible about the situation. I am amazed she has not attempted to personally apologize to Grace. Just because, one goes to church does not mean that, they are an honest Christian or whatever faith they believe in. If she felt true remorse, she would have done everything you have stated without public or church influences.

John Woodworth JR
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Paul, I am just curious on what makes you believe Judge Noonan is incompetent? I for one believe he is a great Judge. We may not always agree with his judgements but, here is something for you to think about. We all make mistakes, we all have done something we may not be proud of, as a Police Officer I know my action can directly impact an individual's life and that of their family. So, I ask myself what would be the best way to handle the situation? When you look at the whole picture you get a better view. Sometimes that view is rushed and bad things can happen. Judge Noonan may view things differently than you or I or anyone else for that matter. His actions WILL directly impact that individual's life and he will do what is best for the whole picture. Sometimes the best punishment is something simple. I for one would like to see Ms Simmons sentence to prison because, not once have she shown any true remorse for her actions. She and her lawyers truly feel she has not done wrong in this situation, otherwise Simmons would have taken the plead deal. She should be instructed to anger management, community service through publicly speaking and public awareness of elderly abuse and a formal/personal apology to Grace Souzzi with at least a two years prison term.

Tom Guentner
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Let's see who she knocks out in the big house........

John Woodworth JR
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Anyone older and smaller than her.

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