Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

January 19, 2013

Sarah Simmons bond reduced, Kirk Simmons bond not

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — A bond reduction hearing for co-defendants in a Knoxville drug case Friday morning led to a split decision. One defendant's bond will remain at $100,000, while the other's will be reduced to $50,000. 

Kirk D. Simmons, 40, and Sarah Mae Simmons, 35, were arrested on methamphetamine manufacturing charges after the execution of a search warrant by law enforcement. Law enforcement was granted the warrant based on an anhydrous ammonia smell. A motion to exclude this evidence has been filed. Both are being held in the Marion County Jail on bond. 

Nathan Russell represented Kirk at Friday's hearing, while Colte Moss represented Sarah. Assistant Marion County Attorney Tiffany Kragnes represented the State in prosecution. 

"It's not a violent offense," Russell said of Kirk's charges. He went on to say that Kirk is employed and he can pay the bond if it was reduced and claimed that Kirk was in drug treatment when they were arrested. 

"He was trying to get better," Russell said. Kirk was already denied pretrial release by the court, due to other pending litigation, a history of failing to appear and that he owes money to the court. 

Kragnes requested the court, at a minimum, keep the bond at the same level.

"It should, in fact, be increased," Kragnes said. She said the use of anhydrous, even the smell of it, made the couple a threat to the community. She said Kirk has used meth in the past and was arrested in this case, when he already had two other outstanding charges. He was pulled over on Sept. 3, 2012, and charged with OWI and possession. Despite treatment for past offenses, Kragnes said Kirk continues to make meth.

She proceeded to read through a litany of arrests on Kirk's record, dating back to 1992, when he was arrested for possession of marijuana. Kirk has since had multiple run-ins with the Marion County Sheriff's Office, the Winterset Police Department, the Madison County Sheriff's Office and the Urbandale Police Department. Iowa Court records indicate that Kirk has had seven felony, three aggravated misdemeanor and 13 simple misdemeanor arrests. 

In February 2010, he was released from prison. Three months later, in May, he was arrested again for domestic abuse.

"Based on Mr. Simmons' incredibly large criminal history...the State does ask at a minimum, $100,000," Kragnes said. 

Russell expressed his anger at Kragnes' decision to discuss Kirk's past criminal history. Judge Terry Rickers asked Russell if the court was not supposed to take Kirk's past criminal history into account during a bond review hearing. 

"The court has to consider a defendant's likelihood to appear for future court appearances," Rickers said. He said it would be "naive" to not discuss criminal history. He ruled that the bond would remain the same. 

The court then shifted its focus to Sarah.

Sarah was also denied pretrial release, due to unpaid court obligations. Moss pled with the court, saying that Sarah has two children to look after. If released, she would live with her mother-in-law, and would stipulate to electronic monitoring. 

Kragnes argued that Sarah's bond should remain the same as well, because Sarah was an integral part of the manufacture of meth. She also had a problem with Sarah's plans to move in with the mother of her co-defendant. 

Rickers saw distinctions between Sarah's issues and Kirk's. Her bond was lowered to $50,000. 

A pretrial conference in both cases is scheduled for Feb. 1 at 9:30 a.m. Kragnes went on the record further, to discuss the plea offers extended to the defendants. Sarah would not be asked to testifiy against Kirk if she told the court what she did. The charges against her would be reduced and the State would recommend a lighter sentence for her. 

If Sarah does not plead, and the State is forced to fly in the case agent, former Knoxville Police Officer Jennifer Segall, who has moved to Montana, the costs of flying her back would be assessed to the defendant. That same stipulation applies to Kirk's plea agreement. 

If Kirk pleads guilty, he would be sent to prison immediately, but the State would not pursue any "habitual offender" status against him.