A defendant in Iowa had sexual assault of a minor charge lodged against him dismissed after the prosecuting attorney in his cased arrived at the courthouse drunk. The incident happened on the day the defendant was prepared to accept a plea agreement in the case.
Judge Martha Mertz dismissed all charges against Dennis Simmerman, the 23-year-old man charged with multiple accounts of sexual misconduct stemming from his involvement with a 13-year-old boy. Michelle Rivera, the prosecuting attorney in the case, was arrested in the courthouse for public intoxication.
The incident took place on October 18. A sheriffs deputy working in the court noticed that Ms. Rivera was having trouble maintaining her balance. He could also smell the scent of alcohol once he approached her.
Rivera missed Simmerman’s hearing due to the incident. The court did not seek an extension to allow another hearing to be held after the one-year deadline in his case passed. Judge Mertz explained the incident was one in a long pattern of unexplained absences and inactivity by Rivera.
Robert Rigg, a law professor at Drake University, explains the state could seek to retry Simmerman on other charges to avoid double jeopardy issues. Federal charges could also be used to bring the 23-year-old man to justice instead of state prosecution.
Rivera apologized to the court and the public after her courthouse arrest. Her bid for re-election in November was unsuccessful.
Rivera was arrested a week ago on charges that she was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. She was also charged with child endangerment. She was arrested at the courthouse after a sheriffs deputy received a tip that she was driving in a manner that suggested intoxication. Rivera was charged with child endangerment due to the fact she had dropped her daughter off at a daycare facility minutes before driving to the courthouse.