Child molestation charges against a former youth minister claiming he molested members of his congregation have been dropped.
The defendant, Jeffery Simmons, 47, will still have to serve 48 years in prison despite the dismissal of the charges. The 48 years, which must be served in their entirety, come for his conviction on charges of molesting an 8-year-old girl.
Simmons has been behind bars since 2000 when he was arrested amid allegations he molested several female members of the Gath Baptist Church youth group when he was youth minister there. The victims, all under the age of 13, claimed they had been molested to varying degrees by Simmons who continues to deny his involvement. He has claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy to remove him from his position at the church.
Simmons was given his present 48-year sentence following his conviction in 2003 for molesting an 8-year-old. A jury was unable to reach a verdict in the molestation case of a 12-year-old the following year, resulting in a hung jury. The cases have remained in limbo ever since while Simmons has exhausted his appeal process.
It was the ending of his appeals, according to District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis, that led to the dismissal of the cases brought by the three last victims, all of whom are now adults.
“We first wanted to let him finish with his appeals so we were sure he would serve 48 years on his conviction, meaning he will likely never get out since he must serve the entire sentence,” Zavogiannis said. “Since his appeals are exhausted, we felt it would be best to go ahead and close out the other cases so the victims can have closure.”