After spending more than four decades in prison, a Black man was released from prison earlier this year. He claimed that officials in Louisiana accused him of falsely arresting him and convicting his to cover up the sexual assault of a White teenager girl in 1970s Louisiana. Vincent Simmons, now 70 years old, filed the accusations in a civil rights suit in federal court.
Simmons was convicted in 1977 of two counts each of attempted aggravated sexual rape on twin teenage sisters. He was sentenced to 100 years imprisonment. Judge Bill Bennett ruled that Simmons did not receive a fair trial. Although Bennett did not express any opinion on Simmons' guilt or innocence he dismissed Simmons' conviction. Simmons was freed from prison after Simmons' long incarceration.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Western District of Louisiana, Simmons seeks unspecified damages. Simmons alleged that Avoyelles Parish officials in the 1970s, including sheriff's officers and prosecutors, conspired to fabricate evidence against him and suppress other evidence that could have prevented Simmons' conviction.
Eddie Knoll, the original district attorney in the case, maintained that Simmons was correctly convicted. In a January sworn affidavit, Knoll stated that Simmons was not denied any evidence and that he was not prosecuted because of bias.
Bennett stated that the case was brought to trial quickly because prosecutors and defense didn't have all the evidence. "I don’t believe anyone intentionally concealed anything. He said, "It's just the fact it happened because it wasn't fast," to "CBS Mornings," lead national correspondent David Begnaud.
The accusations of twin sisters Karen Sanders and Sharon Sanders led to Simmons' conviction. Simmons, a Black man, was accused in May 1977 of raping his White sisters. They were then 14 years old. They claimed that Keith Laborde, their cousin, had given Simmons a ride back and locked Laborde in his car trunk while he raped them.
Simmons claims that Karen Sanders was molested and abused by Laborde. Laborde's father John Laborde held the position as parish assessor.
Karen Sanders said that she had consensual sexual sex with Keith Laborde at the age of 9-10 in a February interview. Keith Laborde denied ever having sex in public with Karen Sanders.
Keith Laborde told Begnaud that he and Karen Sanders "played around as children" in a phone call. Laborde claimed this had nothing to do Simmons, whom Laborde still believes guilty.
Begnaud was told by the sisters that they would stand behind their accusations against Simmons. "He said he was going after us. Karen Sanders stated that he told us everything and we believed it.
Robert Laborde, Deputy Sheriff, arrested Simmons. According to the complaint, Simmons is thought to be related with Keith Laborde and the Sanders siblings. Simmons claims he was detained without probable cause.
Simmons claims that a report from a medical exam that concluded that Sharon Sanders' hymen was still intact after the incident is alleged in the lawsuit. This report was not provided to Simmons' lawyers during his trial.
Simmons claims that Simmons and Keith Laborde were "systemically coached" by officials to identify Simmons by name, and get their stories straight about the alleged rapes.
According to the complaint Simmons was the only one who was handcuffed in the police lineup that included a White man. Begnaud was told by the Sanders sisters that Simmons was not in handcuffs at the time they selected him. Knoll stated in the January affidavit, that Simmons was photographed in handcuffs after he was selected for the lineup.
"I have an independent recollection that I called Sheriff F.O. immediately." Knoll stated in the affidavit that Didier, now deceased was the one who explained to me why Simmons was in shackles in the photograph. "Sheriff Didier told me that the photograph was taken shortly after the lineup had been completed."
Simmons wants a jury trial.