In September of last year, 22-year-old Dennis Simmerman was charged with having sex with a 13-year-old boy. Police say he admitted to Clark County, Iowa detectives that he’d also traded lewd photos with the kid.
Since police had a confession, it would seem an open and shut case. But the American justice system does not move with haste.
It would take a year of back-and-forth before Simmerman was prepared to plead to a class D felony. Then fate – and a drunken prosecutor – would deliver him from his sins.
Enter Clark County Attorney Michelle Rivera, the locale’s chief law officer since 2011.
On October 18, a sheriff’s deputy noticed Rivera behaving drunkenly in court. She was “slurring her words and stumbling on her feet,” and “sat in a chair and swayed her head back and [forth], actions common with being intoxicated,” according to the subsequent criminal complaint.
The deputy also noticed the tell-tale scent of liquor. But Rivera refused to take a breathalyzer, so he busted her for public intoxication.
The bigger problem arrived the following day. It had been a year since Simmerman’s arraignment, which meant that Rivera had to file an extension in his case, lest she violate his right to a speedy trial.
But Rivera never filed the extension. Simmerman’s lawyer responded with a motion to dismiss the case. This week, Judge Marti Mertz had no other choice but to grant it. Despite being a confessed pedophile, Dennis Simmerman would walk.
He did spend 15 months in jail. Prosecutors can also attempt to hit him with different charges. But the original charges are now permanently off the table.
Meanwhile, things have not gone well for Rivera. She would later plead guilty and pay a $65 fine for being hammered in court. Yet drunkenness on the job is not a promising quality during campaign season.
In November, she was pounded in her bid for reelection, registering a meager 29 percent of the vote in the Clark county attorney race. And it would keep getting worse.
Last week, a woman called police on a suspected drunk, saying a driver had nearly hit her, then ran a stop sign before heading to the Clark County Courthouse. A license plate number brought deputies straight to Rivera.
According to the cops, the prosecutor tried to blame the scent of alcohol on drinking the night before, and she once again refused a breathalyzer. But she failed a field sobriety test. Worse, deputies discovered she’d dropped her daughter at daycare before heading to work. She was charged with drunk driving and child endangerment.
Rivera will be in court again today, this time as a defendent.