posted on January 13, 2014 16:10
Jacquetta Simmons’s sentence is officially reduced. She will serve one year in county jail.
The Batavia woman convicted of punching elderly Wal-Mart worker Grace Suozzi of Batavia on Christmas Eve three years ago was re-sentenced this afternoon in County Court by Judge Robert Noonan.
The one-year county jail sentence was expected after an appellate judge last week upheld her second-degree assault conviction, but overturned the original five-year state prison sentence handed down by Judge Noonan back in November 2012. Simmons was sentenced under New York’s so-called “Granny Law” which makes it felony to injure a person over the age of 65. Suozzi was 70 at the time.
The appellate court deemed the sentence too harsh. Judge Noonan today imposed the same recommended sentence saying, “I have no discretion to modify their sentence.”
Simmons’s attorneys, Earl Key and Ann Nichols agree.
“It’s very unusual for a first-time offender to receive a sentence of five years incarceration,” Nichols said. “It just doesn’t happen all that often. I looked at the data myself. I talked to [state prison] – that is almost unheard of. I would say that the original result maybe was not in line with community standards across the state.”
“Ms. Nichols did a lot of research,” Key said. “We looked at cases on – not the exact same crime – but a Class D violent felony with someone who had no prior run-ins with the law, no criminal history, was in college. There’s never been a case that we could find and the district attorney’s office sure didn’t refute what we said in the paperwork where someone has ever gotten five years as a first-time offense. Anywhere.”
Key and Nichols dismissed the notion that a state appellate judge would be out of touch with a particular place’s community standards that could influence a sentence.
“Should decisions be made based on the victim’s character or who the victim is?” Key asked. “So somebody who was less popular in the community, or somebody who wasn’t as affluent in the community -- then the sentence should have been less, but because Grace is who she is then the sentence should be harsher? That’s absurd.”
“I don’t think anybody has really taken into account what we have been trying to get people to notice since the beginning: Jacquetta Simmons had absolutely no criminal history, she worked, she was not on public assistance, she has no C.P.S (Child Protective Services) cases and what everybody in this community that we’re talking about has painted her out to be…They don’t know who Jacquetta Simmons is and I think quite frankly they didn’t care to know who she was,” Nichols said.
Simmons is expected to pay $100 a month to reach about $2,000 in restitution. Key says they plan to file a notice of appeal on that portion of the decision.
“She has to pay restitution for things like high blood pressure medication and things of that nature for a woman who admittedly never went to the doctor for years prior,” Key said. “One of our arguments was – and still is – you don’t know she didn’t have high blood pressure before this incident. She wasn’t seen by a medical professional.”
Key says the appellate court judge did not necessarily even agree with the conviction that it was an intentional punch.
“The judge did not say that they disagreed with her,” Keys said. “What they did say was they weren’t going to substitute their judgment for the jury. Judge (Rose) Sconiers, after watching the video (of the incident) did say she would vote to overturn the entire conviction.”
Simmons’s defense and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman did not know her time-served, but with good behavior, Simmons is expected to be released before the year is up.
Three days after Simmons was sent to state prison at the end of November 2012, a six-month stay was issued for Simmons’s prison term. $50,000 bond was posted for Simmons pending the appeal in mid-December of that year.
Simmons was far along in her pregnancy at the time of her original sentence.