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Monday, May 2, 2016

Accused rapist on trial

Thursday, May 6, 2004

Staff Writer

A 12-year-old boy has problems with his school work and his grades suffer. His family is what counselors describe as "dysfunctional" and they move from home to home. No matter where they live the home is "filthy," according to authorities. The Department of Human Services gets involved with the family due to neglect.

With four siblings and a mother who works around the clock, the boy seeks attention. He finally finds it but winds up with something he doesn't want in return -- sexual abuse by a man he looked to as a father figure.

This is the image painted by counselors describing a now 19-year-old man who said he was sexually abused repeatedly by Horseshoe Bend's former Recorder/treasurer Charles "Chuck" V. Simmons from 1997 through 2000 while the teen lived with him in his "immaculate" home.

Simmons, 49, whose trial in Cleburne County Circuit Court began April 26 and continued into this week, is charged with six counts of rape, one count of sexual abuse and one count of producing, directing or promoting sexual performance. The charges resulted from accusations of sexual abuse of five young men.

Simmons helped the boy with his school work, bought him a horse, taught him to drive, went to his basketball games, bought him video games, gave him money and took him to hang out with his friends, said the victim during testimony last week in Cleburne County Circuit Court. Simmons was granted co-temporary custody in April 1999 and the boy moved into Simmons' lakefront home.

"He just seemed to be a nice guy that was helping this kid out," counselor Melinda Wallace told Prosecutor Lona McCastlain who was appointed to the case. "He is a loving child, appreciates attention, not always a great student, doesn't always excel at what he's doing but he's just a good kid. I think he did the best he could with what he was raised in."

Some of the youth's counselors thought something "wasn't right" about the relationship, Wallace said. But at the time the boy denied any inappropriate sexual behavior by Simmons and his mother didn't take advice from some of the family's counselors not to allow the boy to stay at Simmons' home.

Now the alleged victim says he lied.

"I was scared to (tell anyone)," he told deputy prosecuting attorney Stuart Cearley. "I was in denial. I wasn't actually lying; I just didn't want people to know what was going on."

The victim told the jury how he and Simmons would eat ice cream in Simmons' bed and watch the television show "Frasier" almost every night. One night, he said, after the show ended Simmons asked him if he had ever seen a pornographic film, and he said no.

"He (Simmons) popped in a porno, pulled my drawers down and started giving me oral sex," the witness said.

He said Simmons threw parties almost every weekend where teen-agers and adults would drink whiskey, vodka, tequila, beer and mixed drinks. The youths tried drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroine brought by adults attending the parties, he said.

Another victim, now 18, said he would often attend parties and stay the night at Simmons' home.

"There would be drinking over there and drugs," the second victim testified. "We could watch pornography over there. We could do anything we wanted over there."

The witnesses said they often watched pornographic films at Simmons' home.

"We watched pornographic videos more than we did regular TV," the first victim said.

The boy and his friends would get drunk and strip for the men, one testified. Occasionally the men would fondle the boys or perform oral sex on them, he added.

The first witness began crying when describing an incident that allegedly occurred after the boy and another friend passed out in the boy's room after consuming alcohol and drugs.

He testified that the boys awoke with their arms and legs handcuffed to a bed while Simmons and his friend, Jason Wilbanks, performed anal sex on the boys while another friend and suspect in the case, Derry Reed, taped the incident.

"They felt like cold bracelets around my wrists," the first victim said. "We were both just lying on the bed, aching and crying. Chuck didn't stop and just went faster and harder."

The young men testified that they would pass out from binge drinking and awake in a different location in the home from where they had fallen asleep. A third victim said he once awoke with Simmons performing oral sex on him. The second victim said he awoke in Simmons' bedroom naked with his anus hurting.

The alleged victims also accuse Simmons of taking nude pictures of them and videotaping them.

Another of the alleged victims, Derek DeSanto, was found dead in his sister's Melbourne home in January 2003 from an apparent suicide. The jury watched a taped deposition from 2002 that DeSanto made for a civil suit the victims and their families have filed against Simmons.

In his deposition DeSanto said he also moved in with Simmons, who gave him gifts, including a car. He also suffered sexual abuse, he said.

He said he was abused by Simmons "too many times" and never had sex with the man willingly.

"It wasn't right," DeSanto said in his deposition. "Who is going to have kids coming over there and getting drunk? He did wrong."

Simmons' public defender, Bradley Sipe of Melbourne, said none of the allegations came about until the first victim was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior toward his own 9-year-old half sister.

The victim admitted to the jury he would go into his sister's room while she was sleeping and rub his fingers all over her body beginning with her vagina. He said both were fully clothed at all times. The behavior occurred during a two-month long stretch and ended when his sister awoke one night while he was rubbing her.

Danny Williams, a counselor with Youth Villages in Memphis, Tenn., met with the boy in November 2000 about his behavior toward his sister. He said the boy was "nonchalant" regarding the allegations. He later told Williams about the abuse by Simmons. Williams began crying when reviewing his notes about the alleged abuse by Simmons.

Williams said the majority of juveniles with sexual problems have themselves been sexually abused in the past.

The first victim said he had been afraid to tell about the abuse because Simmons threatened to harm him and his family if he told.

After the first victim told Williams of the abuse, the boy was taken to the prosecutor's office. Days later, a search warrant was executed on Simmons' home.

During the search by the Arkansas State Police, Izard County Sheriff's Office and Horseshoe Bend Police, officers seized video tapes, books, undeveloped film, photos, computer disks, Simmons' computer tower, two telephone bills and a bank statement.

Sgt. Paul Curtis, who assists the Arkansas State Police with computer searches, took the witness stand and showed the jury 37 pictures found on Simmons' computer which someone had attempted to delete Nov. 11 but which were still stored in a temporary folder on the computer for recently deleted material.

The pictures were of men naked and partially clothed. Some of the pictures contained men performing oral sex on one another and another of a man masturbating. At least one of the pictures of the oral sex was of two of the boys who frequented Simmons' home.

All the images were sent or received over the Internet, Curtis said.

DeSanto said in his deposition that Simmons had connections and said he probably knew of the search warrant before it was executed.

In cross-examining the witnesses, Sipe has pointed out inconsistencies in the victims' testimony. While the allegations of abuse remain the same, the circumstances surrounding the abuse differs, along with the times of the abuse.

Those inconsistencies are what Sipe told the jury to look for in his opening statement April 27.

"This is not an easy case and it isn't as simple as the state makes it sound," Sipe said.

In addition to Simmons, Reed, Ken Clodfelter, William "Bill" F. O'Brien and William L. "Les" Dennision have also been charged in the abuse. They are scheduled to appear in court in Izard County later this month.

A sixth defendant, Jason Wilbanks, testified Tuesday on behalf of the state. He confirmed that he and Simmons had had sex with the juvenile witnesses, but said the boys had not been bound and no one had videotaped the acts.

Wilbanks has accepted a plea agreement in which he agreed to testify on behalf of the state and plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit rape.

As part of the agreement, Wilbanks will have to pay a $10,000 fine, court costs and the DNA fees. He must also perform 300 hours of community service and attend sex offender counseling. He will be placed on probation for 10 years, five years supervised. And he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Simmons was offered a plea agreement before the trial began but refused.

A verdict in the trial is expected later this week.

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