Charges tossed for accused child sex abuser after prosecutor’s public intoxication arrest at courthouse

Criminal Justice

An Iowa man accused of sexually assaulting a minor has won dismissal of the charges after the prosecutor was arrested at the courthouse for public intoxication on the day he was scheduled to enter a guilty plea.

Judge Martha Mertz of Osceola, Iowa, dismissed charges against 23-year-old Dennis Simmerman on Monday based on a violation of his speedy trial rights, report the Washington Post, the Associated Press, KCCI and the Des Moines Register.

Clarke County attorney Michelle Rivera was arrested on Oct. 18 for public intoxication after a sheriff’s deputy noticed she was swaying and smelled of alcohol, according to the complaint filed against her. She missed Simmerman’s plea hearing, and prosecutors did not seek an extension of the one-year deadline for trial.

Mertz said Rivera’s absence at the hearing “was the finale following unexplained periods of inactivity and lack of responsiveness” during the prosecution.

Simmerman had been charged with third-degree sexual abuse and disseminating obscene material to a minor by telephone. He was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.

Drake University law professor Robert Rigg told AP that county prosecutors could try to file different charges against Simmerman, such as lascivious acts against a child. The bar on double jeopardy could also be avoided if federal prosecutors were to file charges.

Rivera apologized after her arrest and later pleaded guilty to public intoxication. She lost her bid for re-election in November.

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Rivera was arrested again on Friday on charges of driving while intoxicated and child endangerment, the Des Moines Register had reported. A sheriff’s deputy had arrested Rivera at the courthouse after receiving a complaint that her driving that morning was erratic. The endangerment charge was based on the deputy’s conclusion that Rivera had taken her daughter to day care before her arrest.

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