He Was About to Plead Guilty. Then Prosecutor Was Arrested

Charges were dropped against Dennis Michael Simmerman
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2018 9:45 AM CST
He Was About to Plead Guilty. Then Prosecutor Was Arrested
Michelle Rivera.   (Clarke County Jail via AP)

Dennis Michael Simmerman intended to plead guilty in a case involving the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy, after previously admitting he'd done so. Instead, his case was dropped, and an allegedly drunk prosecutor is at the crux of why. The Des Moines Register reports the 23-year-old Iowa man was supposed to make his plea in an Oct. 18 hearing. Just before the hearing was to begin, Clarke County Attorney Michelle Rivera, 42, was reportedly observed by a sheriff's deputy to be "slurring her words and stumbling on her feet." She refused to take a breath test, was arrested for public intoxication, and pleaded guilty. Prosecutors were obligated to file for an extension the next day, or otherwise facilitate his right to a speedy trial. They didn't.

As a result, on Monday District Court Judge Martha Mertz ruled the two charges against Simmerman—third-degree sexual abuse and disseminating obscene material (photos, in this case) to a minor by telephone—should be dropped. "The county attorney's unavailability at the last hearing was the finale following unexplained periods of inactivity," said Mertz. Simmerman had been in jail awaiting trial for 15 months, reports KCCI, and his lawyer noted that because he wasn't tried within a year, "you have the potential to have that case dismissed and that's what happened here." He can't be charged again. As for Rivera, the Register reports she was again arrested on Friday on suspicion of operating while intoxicated; police made contact with her after responding to a report of an erratic driver. She had just dropped her child at day care and was also charged with child endangerment. (More strange stuff stories.)

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