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Jacquetta Simmons

August 21, 2012 - 5:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

So far, according to attorney Earl Key, Jacquetta Simmons, the 26-year-old Batavia woman accused of hitting a 70-year-old Walmart employee on Christmas Eve, hasn't had a chance to tell her side of the story.

"There's only been one side of the story up to this point reported in the media," said Key following the completion of jury selection in the Simmons case. "Our side will come out in the courtroom, not the media."

Simmons is facing one felony count of assault in the second degree with an accusation that Simmons struck a person 65 years or older while being at least 10 years younger than the alleged victim.

Simmons is accused of striking Grace Suozzi, who was working as a cashier the afternoon of Christmas Eve when she reportedly asked Simmons and her brother to produce a receipt for items in a bag her brother was carrying.

During jury selection, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman asked each prospective juror about their attitudes toward employees who ask customers to show receipts before leaving a store.

Today, one juror, who said he came into the court yesterday with no prior knowledge of the case, told Friedman that what he gathered from prior questioning of prospective jurors was that the defendant had been profiled on Christmas Eve based on her race. He said he disagreed with the practice and, after admitting he couldn't be an impartial juror, was dismissed.

Eight jurors were picked yesterday, and the final four plus three alternates were chosen today.

Yesterday during jury selection, prospective jurors were closely questioned about racial attitudes.

Today, there were few questions about race and none from defense attorney Ann Nichols, who today handled jury questioning for the Simmons team.

After court, Key reiterated that he doesn't believe the case is about race and he isn't concerned with presenting the case to an all-white jury.

"I've tried cases with an all-white jury before," Key said. "I've had black jurors convict black defendants and white jurors acquit black defendants. I don't care what color you are, so long as you're fair and impartial."

Key said all the talk about race being a factor has been in the media; it's not part of his case. Nichols added that most of the race talk around the case has been from readers leaving comments on stories on various news sites.

To the degree that race plays a factor in the case will hinge on a seemingly racially charged statement Simmons allegedly made during the confrontation.

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini revealed the alleged statement during a hearing July 30 when arguing whether Simmons had intended to cause serious physical injury to Souzzi.

Proving intent of serious physical injury was a key part of count one of the grand jury indictment, the Class D felony of assault in the second degree, but last week Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charge.

"... the evidence before the grand jury of serious physical injury was not overwhelming and established only that the victim approached the defendant and the defendant withdrew from the confrontation after throwing the punch," Noonan wrote in his decision. "The grand jury could not have reasonably inferred from such evidence that the defendant acted with the culpable mental state of intent to cause serious physical injury."

With that second-degree assault charge no longer being presented to the jury, and no requirement to prove intent to cause serious physical injury, it's unknown if the jury will even hear the alleged statement by Simmons.

Under count two of the indictment, which Noonan upheld, the prosecution need only prove intent to cause physical injury.

After count one was reduced to a Class B misdemeanor, assault 3rd, Friedman moved to have the charge dismissed and try only count two.

The trial begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The 12-person jury is comprised of 10 women and two men and the three alternates are women.

Key said with all the media attention the case has gotten, the past several months have been stressful for his client. She dropped out of college, Key said. She's seen ugly comments left about her online, especially on Facebook, he said, and Nichols added that she's received hate mail at home.

"She's taken it all in stride," Key said. "She's looking forward to us putting her side of the story in front of a jury."

Photo: Simmons leaves the Genesee County Courthouse during the lunch break with Nichols while a WHAM 13 cameraman photographs her, and a member of the defense team finishing hold the courthouse door.

August 21, 2012 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

Twelve Genesee County residents have been selected to serve on the jury of the Jacquetta Simmons case.

A pool of potential jurors are being drawn for consideration as alternate jurors. The potential alternates will be interviewed after the lunch break.

Simmons is being tried on a single count of assault in the second degree with an accusation of being more than 10 years younger than the alleged victim who is over age 65.

The 27-year-old Batavia woman is accused of hitting a 70-year-old Walmart cashier on Christmas Eve.

UPDATE 3 p.m.: Three alternate jurors have been selected. The jury is comprised of 10 women and two men. The three alternates are women. Judge Robert C. Noonan is delivering instructions and the trial will start tomorrow.

July 30, 2012 - 2:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

In a week or two, attorneys in the Jacquetta Simmons case will find out from Judge Robert C. Noonan whether two felony counts against the 26-year-old Batavia woman will stand.

Simmons is accused of punching a 70-year-old Walmart employee on Christmas Eve.

A grand jury indicted Simmons on felony counts of assault in the second degree, for allegedly hitting the victim with intent to cause serious injury, and a second count of assault, 2nd, charging Simmons with hiitting a person more than 10 years older who is also 65 years old or older.

A hearing today was scheduled for Noonan to consider the constitutionality of the so-called "elder abuse" law, but Noonan also asked the defense and prosecution to address whether sufficient evidence was presented to the grand jury to support count one of the indictment, the basic second-degree assault charge.

On the assult charge, attorney Ann Nichols argued that there is no evidence presented to the grand jury that Simmons intended to cause serious or permanent injury to the victim, Grace Suozzi, nor that Suozzi suffered such an injury.

"In the grand jury minutes, Ms. Suozzi does not say she was punched," Nichols said. "She says she was hit. She doesn't say she was punched until after Mr. (District Attorney Lawrence) Friedman uses the word punched in a question. I don’t see intent to cause serious physical injury being reliant on one punch, if it was in fact a punch, and Ms. Suozzi said herself it was just a hit."

There's no doubt, argued Melissa Cianfrini, assistant district attorney, that the "roundhouse" swing by Simmons was a punch.

Cianfrini described a surveillance video which she said depicted Simmons bracing her leg, winding up and taking a full swing at the victim.

"The punch was so powerful that it knocked her off her feet," Cianfrini said.

Simmons's intent was also clear from statements the defendent allegedly made before and after the alleged assault.

According to Cianfrini, Simmons last statement before allegedly hitting Suozzi was, "I'm not showing the fucking white bitch the receipt."

After the confrontation, with her male companion dragging her away, Simmons allegedly told another witness "you going to get it, too."

Cianfrini said, "That’s not a statement of someone who is acting in self defense. It’s not the statement of someone who regrets what she did. It’s the statement of somebody who knows fully what she did."

Outside of court, Nichols said the defense clearly has a different interpretation of events than Cianfrini and that she believes a jury will be able to fairly weigh the facts, even if the case appears racially charged.

"We have the video," Nichols said. "You can see the video for yourself. It’s more an interpretation. Unfortunately there’s no sound, but we can all kind of see on our own and infer what it depicts."

Nichols added, "I don’t’ really it (see race being a factor with the jury). Once anyone sees the video, white, black, Asian, whatever, you’re going to get an interpretation leaving race out of it."

On the issue of whether count two of the indictment, the elder abuse law, is constitutional, Nichols argued that the way the statute is written would require a defendent to know the victim's age at the time of the assault. 

"I argue there's no way Ms. Simmons could have known, based on how the law is drafted, that this is a strict liability crime and the fact the legislature chose to draft it so poorly is a violation of the due process of this defendant and other defendents," Nichols said.

Cianfrini noted that another court -- though the decision is not binding on this court -- has already ruled the law is constitutional on the same grounds, but added that the court should not just look to the letter of the law, but the legislative intent. Cianfrini said legislative notes and history clearly indicates the legislature meant the law to apply any time a person more than 10 years younger hits a victim 65 years or older.

Noonan did not give a specific time when his written decision will be issued.

Simmons will go to trial Aug. 20. She turned down a plea offer that would have given Noonan the option of sentencing her to prison time up to three-and-a-half years in prison. If convicted at trial, Simmons could be sentenced up to eight years in prison.

July 16, 2012 - 2:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

There is another delay for a hearing to determine the constitutionality of the elder abuse law being used to prosecute 26-year-old Jacquetta B. Simmons for allegedly punching 70-year-old Grace Suozzi on Christmas Eve at Walmart.

The Attorney General's Office, which has the option of offering its opinion on the constitutionality motion by Attorney Earl Key, contacted Judge Robert C. Noonan today and asked for more time to further review the case.

Whether the AG's office will offer a defense of the law, either in writing or in a court appearance, has yet to be determined.

The hearing date has been rescheduled before and was on the court calendar for today, but has now been moved to 11:45 a.m., July 30.

Today was also the last day Simmons had to accept a plea offer from the District Attorney's Office or be left with only two options, go to trial or make an unconditional plea.

The offer Simmons turned down today was to plead guilty to the second count of the indictment -- the Class D felony assault charge with the elder abuse provision -- and let Noonan determine her fate.

Under the plea offer, Simmons wouldn't serve more than three-and-a-half years in prison, but Noonan would have had the option for a community-based sentence (meaning a little one-day jail time and probation).

Also, the date of the trial -- originally set to start on Aug. 20 is now in doubt. Even though Key originally agreed to the date, it turns out he also has a trial scheduled in Erie County that week.

Noonan's clerk will contact the Erie County clerk to determine whether the other trial can be moved to another date, or if the Simmons trial needs to be rescheduled.

June 27, 2012 - 6:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

In Genesee County Court today, attorney Earl Key, representing Jacquetta Simmons, the 26-year-old Batavia resident accused of punching a 70-year-old Walmart employee on Christmas Eve, asked Judge Robert C. Noonan a series of specific questions about how juries are selected in his courtroom.

Key was there with co-counsel Ann Nichols and Simmons for a hearing on motions filed by the defense and as things were wrapping up, Key wanted to be sure he understood Noonan's ground rules.

The information will be important because outside of court after the hearing, Key told reporters, "I definitely intend to go to trial."

From the time Key was first retained to represent Simmons, he's said there's more to the case than has been reported in the media.

Asked to elaborate, especially in context of having now reviewed video surveillance tapes from Dec. 24, Key's only example of misinformation was that it's been reported that the victim, Walmart employee Grace Suozzi, was near the front door working as a greeter. She was actually working as a cashier that day.

Asked if the tape showed anything else, such as whether Souzzi grabbed the bag from Simmons, Key said, "I'll let that come out at trial."

Today's hearing was scheduled to cover a series of motions filed by Key, including a challenge to the constitutionality of a section of New York law that makes it a felony for a younger person to hit somebody over age 65.

This motion was supposed to be heard a week ago, but the Attorney General's Office was not notified of the challenge as required by law.

The AG's office has now been notified, but the letter did not include notice of today's scheduled hearing, so Noonan set another date, July 16, for the hearing.

Noonan said if history is any indication, the AG's office will not send a representative to the hearing, but rather write the court and inform Noonan that it opposes the challenge but reserves the right to appeal if Noonan finds the law unconstitutional.

This is at least the second time the law has been challenged by a defense attorney. The first time was in Queens, and that attorney lost his motion, but Key said he's raising two additional matters not addressed by the previous attorney.

While he declined to elaborate on the differences, Key said the main issue he is challenging is the vague language of the statute.

"It's vague in meaning and unclear," Key said. "It’s unclear if our client had to know if the alleged victim was 65 years of age. That’s the real question here."

If there is a trial, jury selection will begin Aug. 20 in county court.

The July 16 hearing will also be the last opportunity for Simmons to accept any possible or potential plea offer. If no plea agreement is reached before Simmons leaves court July 16, she will either go to trial or have to accept an unconditional plea.

June 21, 2012 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

The attorney for Jacquetta B. Simmons, the 26-year-old Batavia resident accused of assaulting a 70-year-old Walmart employee on Christmas Eve, is challenging the constitutionality of one of the laws used to charge his client.

Earl Key, a Buffalo attorney, filed a motion May 31 seeking dismisal of count two of the criminal indictment, which alleges assault in the second degree on a person 65 or older. Key's motion states that the relatively new law on which the count is based violates Simmons' rights under the 5th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Key was scheduled to appear in Genesee County Court today to argue his motions but according to his assistant attorney, Ann Nichols, Key was too sick to appear and she asked that the case be continued until next week.

The continuance benefits Key's case, because according to court discussion between Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini and Judge Robert C. Noonan, Key did not notify the Attorney General's Office of his motion challenging the constitutionally of the law, as required by court procedure.

Noonan said if Key had appeared today, he likely would have dismissed the motion due to the insufficiency of notification of the AG's office.

Simmons is accused of hitting Grace Suozzi, who was working as a checker at Walmart on Christmas Eve, after the 70-year-old reportedly asked to see the contents of a bag being carried by Simmon's brother. An argument reportedly ensured and according to witness accounts, Simmons allegedly punched Suozzi, breaking bones in her face.

In April, Simmons was arraigned on one count of assault in the second degree and one count of assault in the second degree on a person age 65 or older, making her the first person in Western New York charged under the relatively new statute.

In his written motion, Key argues the statute is unconstitutional because:

  • There is no legitimate state interest in affording a higher level of protection to a class of citizen based solely on age;
  • The law requires the defendant have knowledge of the victim's age, and a defendant would have know way of knowing a victim's age at the time of the assault;
  • The statute is unfair and unreasonable because it elevates "an otherwise garden variety assault" from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony;
  • The law is "arbitrary and capricious" in affording a person age 65 and older protection not afforded a person age 64 or younger.

According to Cianfrini's written response, prior case law establishes that legislative acts are presumed to have a legitimate state interest unless clearly shown otherwise, which, she argues, Key did not do.

She wrote that the legislative intent is clearly spelled out in the bill's supporting documents and that the state lawmakers had concerns about protecting the elderly "who are particularly susceptible to crimes as a result of their age."

"Specifically," she wrote, "the legislative history reveals that the statute was enacted because 'seniors are generally more vulnerable to injury and less able to protect themselves from younger persons.' "

Cianfrini also countered Key's point on the defendant's intent and need to know the victim's age, saying the law clearly spells out that the victim only meet the age requirement, not that the defendant know the age of the victim.

Legislative history in fact says legislators expected that "there is no requirement that the prosecutor prove the defendant knew or had reason to know the victim's age."

Simmons is scheduled to reappear in court at 3:15 p.m., June 27, for a hearing on Key's motions, which also include standard pre-trial motions related to the sufficiency of the grand jury indictment and evidence.

April 12, 2012 - 11:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

The judicial process in the case of the People v. Jacquetta Simmons took another step forward today with Simmons appearing in Genesee County Court to answer to charges stemming from an alleged assault on Christmas Eve against a 70-year-old Walmart employee.

A grand jury indicted Simmons on two counts of assault in the second degree.

As is routine for a criminal defendant at this stage of the proceedings, Simmons entered a not guilty plea.

Earl Key, and his assistant Ann Nichols, the attorneys for Simmons, will now have 45 days to file motions.

Simmons is scheduled to reappear in court June 21 for a hearing on any motions filed on her behalf.

The 26-year-old Batavia woman is accused of hitting Grace Suozzi, who was working at Walmart on Christmas Eve, causing Suozzi to suffer facial fractures.

One of the assault charges is based on a fairly new statute that makes it a felony for a younger person to hit a person over 65 years old.

March 28, 2012 - 11:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

A 26-year-old Batavia woman accused of punching a 70-year-old Walmart employee during a busy Christmas Eve shopping day has been indicted on two felony counts by a Genesee County Grand Jury.

Jacquetta B. Simmons, of 106 Ellsworth Ave., Batavia, is indicted on two charges of assault in the second degree.

Simmons will be arraigned April 12 on the charges in county court by Judge Robert C. Noonan.

The two Class D felony charges carry potential prison terms -- for a person with no criminal history, as is the case with Simmons -- of from two to seven years.

Simmons was arrested Dec. 24 after reportedly being followed out to her car by a number of Walmart shoppers, who prevented her car from leaving the parking lot.

According to witness reports, Simmons hit Grace Suozzi hard enough to knock her 10 feet across the floor. Souzzi suffered fractures in her face.

Suozzi reportedly asked Simmons for a receipt for a bag of merchandise prior to being hit.

Buffalo attorney Earl Key has suggested there may be additional circumstances to the case that haven't come out yet.

One of the assault charges against Simmons stems from a law passed in 2008 making it a felony to assault and cause injury to a person 65 or older. Simmons is the first person in Genesee County charged under the relatively new law.

Besides having no criminal history, Simmons is a college graduate with strong ties to the community.

She remains out of jail on $40,000 bond, reportedly posted by her parents.

The story of the alleged assault gained national media attention after first being reported by The Batavian.

February 27, 2012 - 5:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

An attorney recently hired to represent Jacquetta Simmons, the 26-year-old Batavia resident accused of punching a 70-year-old Walmart employee on Christmas Eve, said after a court hearing today that he doesn't believe his client intended to hurt Grace Suozzi.

Based on his own interviews and statements he's read, Buffalo attorney Earl Key said there's a lot more to the story than has been reported so far.

"I don't believe my client intended to assault anyone," Key said. "The tape will tell me a lot. I've got to see the tape to see exactly what happened."

Key is concerned however, that the only tape available shows just the portion of the confrontation where Simmons allegedly hit Suozzi.

There's no indication that Simmons was suspected of stealing form the store. Key said she didn't steal anything and she had shown her receipt for the items in her bag.

He said Suozzi's own statement to police indicates she grabbed Simmons. Key said the information he has so far indicates Simmons was trying to push Suozzi away, not assault her.

The language of section 120.05 of the New York penal code states a person is guilty of assault in the second degree when "with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person he causes such injury to such person ..."

In court, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini said unless a plea agreement is reached first, the DA's office intends to send the case to the Grand Jury for possible indictment.

Simmons is also charged with a provision of the assault in the second degree statute that is fairly new, making it a felony to assault a person 65 or older.

Key said he needs to study that statute further, but he believes the law is being misapplied in this case.

Among the evidence gathered by Key so far is a copy of Walmart's policy about demanding that customers show receipts.

He said typically store policy is that an employee never grab a customer. If they suspect a person of stealing, they're supposed to call the police.

Key acknowledged that the case has been contentious in comments on local and regional media sites, but said his client naturally regrets what happened.

"My client is an upstanding citizen," Key said. "She’s bright, she’s young, she’s a college student, she has no criminal history, of course she regrets it. I haven’t seen the medical records, but if the victim has the injuries alleged, then of course she’s truly, truly sorry."

Simmons is scheduled to next appear in Town of Batavia Court on March 26.

January 23, 2012 - 6:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

Whatever drama there was at the Town of Batavia Court today, it was all outside the Town Hall building, both before and after Jacquetta Simmons made her appearance there.

This was the first appearance for the 26-year-old Simmons following her initial arraignment Dec. 23 on two felony counts of assault, 2nd.

Simmons is accused of punching a 70-year-old Walmart employee in the face on Christmas Eve, knocking her several feet across the floor and causing facial fractures.

Television crews from Rochester and Buffalo were on hand for her appearance. After the crews milled about for nearly an hour waiting for her after her scheduled 2 p.m. appearance, several supporters of Simmons pulled up in a sedan and came out of their car and shouted, "Jesus saves!" -- with one member of the group reading aloud from a Bible while waiting for Simmons' arrival.

When Simmons did drive up, the supporters met her at her car, covered her with a jacket and formed a human shield to escort her into the Town Hall building.

Television cameramen tried to position themselves to get a shot of Simmons who had her face covered (listen to audio courtesy WBTA of the jostle).

In court, Simmons' case was called quickly after an attorney, Jerry Ader, from the Public Defender's Office, conferred with her.

Ader was filling in for Public Defender Gary Horton. Ader told Justice Michael Cleveland that Horton had not yet had conferred with Simmons. The case was continued until 2 p.m., Feb. 27, so Horton and Simmons can talk before she enters a plea.

Simmons left by a side door, and in the parking lot, a couple of Simmons' supporters decided to address the media. One gentlemen invited reporters to a new church he said is opening at 47 Swan St., Batavia.

He asked reporters repeatedly, "Are you saved?"

Then a young man came up demanding to know where the media was when his family was slandered. It was unclear what incident or situation he was talking about.

Previously:

December 29, 2011 - 12:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

Jacquetta B. Simmons is the first person in Genesee County to be prosecuted under a law passed by the State Legislature in 2008 making it a Class D felony to assault and cause injury to a person 65 or older.

The legislation, called "The Granny Law" and sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver, was passed in response to a series of violent attacks on elderly people in New York City, including the violent mugging of a 101-year-old woman, Rose Morat, of Brooklyn.

Gov. David Paterson signed the legislation into law as part of a package of laws protecting seniors from "elder abuse," both physical crimes and scams.

As a felony, defendants charged under the subdivision of assault in the second degree face a possible state prison term of anywhere from 2 to 7 years, but, unlike higher-level violent felonies, a state prison term is not mandatory for a Class D violent felony.

That will leave room for a plea deal for Simmons, but the case is still very early in the process and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said his office hasn't had the opportunity to review the evidence yet.

The case will eventually move from Town of Batavia Court to Genesee County Court. But before that happens, there needs to be either a waiver of a grand jury presentation or the case must be presented to the grand jury.

"We haven't received the case yet," Friedman said. "The next step is we get the file and review the evidence."

Based on a review of the evidence and the circumstances of the case, Friedman's office will determine how to proceed with the case.

Simmons is scheduled to reappear in town court Jan. 23.

The 2008 law will make the case somewhat easier to prosecute, Friedman said.

In a situation such as this, in order to sustain a charge of assault in the second degree, prosecutors were previously required to prove "serious physical injury." But the 65-or-older charge requires only that the prosecution prove that the suspect intentionally caused "physical injury" to a victim who is at least 65 years old and that the suspect is more than 10 years younger than the victim.

"We're grateful that this newer charge is there for a situation like this," Friedman said. "It gives us an advantage. We don't have to establish serious physical injury just physical injury. That lessens our burden."

December 27, 2011 - 4:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

The 26-year-old Batavia resident accused of hitting a Walmart employee on Christmas Eve, yelled several obscenities at the 70-year-old woman before punching her in the face, according to several witnesses who made statements to the police.

The statements are contained in the court file of Jacquetta B. Simmons, of 106 Ellsworth Ave., Batavia, charged with two counts of assault in the second degree.

Th statements are from a dozen witnesses who describe the alleged incident either in detail or made the same general observations.

The altercation began, according to reports, when the employee asked a companion of the suspect for a receipt for merchandise in a shopping bag he was holding. Both of the customers refused to produce a receipt, according to the reports, at which point the employee reportedly grabbed the bag from the man.

The employee and a manager said they were enforcing Walmart policy, but numerous online articles say blanket policies have proven legally treacherous for retail stores.

More than a dozen statements about the alleged incident are contained in the court file of Simmons.

The employee, Grace Suozzi, was taken to UMMC where she was treated for injuries to her eye, jaw and cheek, including bone fractures. Souzzi's glasses were also broken when she was hit.

Suozzi gave a statement to a trooper while at the hospital.

"I was working at Walmart on register 2 when I asked a man for a receipt," Souzzi says in her statement. "The man said that the bag was the female's who I was checking out. The man and the woman both refused to show me the receipt, which is the company's policy. I paged my manager about three times. I walked around and took the bag from the man. The female grabbed the bag from me, yelling at me saying the F word every other word. I grabbed the bag back and the bag tore."

According to Suozzi's statement, customer service managers arrived at the register and the argument continued and, as Souzzi put it, "the female decked me."

While Suozzi states she was upholding store policy, several online articles indicate if Walmart's policy is to detain and require a customer produce a receipt for a purchase without suspicion of theft, it may be violating the customer's rights.

The Washington Post wrote about such policies in 2007 and The Legality, an online law journal, examines the issue in some detail.

According to online accounts, receipt checks must be voluntary and customers cannot be detained unless an employee has a specific belief that a theft may have taken place.

A spokeswoman for Walmart said the company may release a statement later on its actual receipt check policy, but meanwhile she referred The Batavian to a loss prevention expert with the National Retail Federation, based in Washington, D.C.

"Of course," a customer may refuse to produce a receipt, said Joe Larocca, but a store may also refuse service to customers, and a customer who isn't cooperative may find himself barred from the store in the future.

Every retail chain has its own policies, Larocca explained, but they're all active in aggressive loss-prevention measures.

A retail store employee can detain anybody the employee reasonably suspects of theft, Larocca said, and stores are legally protected when an actual theft is suspected.

Nationally, retail stores lose $35.3 billion to theft each year.

"The number of consumers who complain are just a handful of people," Larocca said. "By and large, customers regard the request for a receipt as reasonable. They recognize that stores must protect their merchandise. Everybody recognizes that losses in the store mean higher prices at the registers."

But online stories indicate there are times when customers challenge an employee requesting a receipt for an item purchased, such as an account in The Consumerist of a man who remained calm when confronted by Walmart employees in Virginia and eventually walked out of the store with his purchase despite never showing his receipt.

Witness accounts from Christmas Eve, however, indicate Simmons was anything but calm during the confrontation.

"Cashier Grace was working at register 2," wrote a store manager. "She asked to see a customer's receipt for a bag of merchandise they had. The woman refused to show a receipt. Then the woman began swearing loudly at Grace. The woman grabbed the bag out of Grace's hands and then punched Grace in the face causing Grace to fall to the floor."

A customer wrote, "... they were surrounded by the CSM's (customer service managers) ... they were trying to talk to her but the customer was furious and swearing and she tried to take the bag from Grace's hands so all the stuff dropped on the floor. Finally she punched her in the face and threw Grace 10 feet away."

Nearly every account describes Simmons yelling obscenities at Souzzi before allegedly hitting her.

Witnesses say Simmons was with an unidentified man who in one account tried to keep Simmons calm and in another was yelling into a mobile phone.

The accounts of store managers also indicate they believe it is Walmart's policy for customers to produce a receipt upon demand.

One manager wrote, "I was called over to register two today and asked by the customers why cashier Grace wouldn't let them leave without seeing a receipt. I told them I know that Grace had done the right thing and that we couldn't let them leave without a receipt. They started to get rude and loud and I called (another employee) over to help with the situation."

It's unclear from the statements if Suozzi was engaged in a systematic process of checking receipts, or engaged in other activities and singled out Simmons and her companion for some reason. It's also unclear why Simmons and her companion had a bag full of previously purchased merchandise while at the cash register.

The court file contains no statements by Simmons nor her companion.

State Police have said that Simmons did have a receipt for the items in the bag and is not accused of stealing anything from Walmart.

The Batavia resident is out of jail on $40,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court again Jan. 23.

Simmons is charged with two counts of assault, 2nd, one for allegedly causing serious injury and the other for allegedly injuring a person 65 or older.

As a first-time offender, Simmons is facing a possible sentence, if convicted, of two to seven years in prison.

The statute making assault on a person 65 or older a Class D felony was passed in 2008.

NOTE: On Sunday, we published a story with a witness statement saying Simmons was smiling after she was cuffed. We've heard from several other people who contradict that statement, describing Simmons conduct in widely differing accounts, from hysterical, to angrily yelling, to calm and emotionless, but nobody else reports seeing her smiling.

December 25, 2011 - 10:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

CORRECTION: The employee allegedly assaulted was a cashier, not a greeter.

A 70-year-old greeter at Walmart suffered fractures on the left side of her face Christmas Eve after a 26-year-old woman allegedly punched her after being asked for her receipt for items in her shopping bag.

The young woman reportedly ran from the store and, according to witnesses and several customers, chased her and surrounded her car, preventing her from leaving until police arrived.

"One of the biggest things to note is that the community actually stood up and did not let this person get away with what she did," said one witness, who asked to remain anonymous. "Even on this busy shopping day, dozens of people stayed behind and made police reports."

Charged with two counts of assault in the second degree -- one for alleged attempt to cause serious injury and another for allegedly injuring a person 65 or older -- is Jacquetta Simmons of 106 Ellsworth Ave., Batavia.

Simmons was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court by Justice Michael Cleveland and committed to Genesee County Jail on $20,000 bail or $40,000 bond. She's scheduled to reappear in court Jan. 23.

The injured woman was taken to UMMC with a swollen face and multiple facial fractures.

Witnesses say the woman is a longtime employee of Walmart and loved by many.

The employee was reportedly working near the front doors of Walmart when Simmons tried to exit carrying a bag of merchandise. The victim asked Simmons for her receipt. It's unknown if there was any other conversation, but it was at this point that Simmons allegedly punched the victim, who was knocked to the floor.

Simmons then reportedly ran from the store, chased by other customers. 

Batavia police arrived on scene first, but Walmart is outside of the city, so State Police took over the investigation once on scene.

In comments on The Batavian's post yesterday, Michelle Wheatley, a witness, said, that as she was leaving she saw the suspect "standing by the police car in handcuffs with a big smile on her face."

UPDATE: Simmons posted $40,000 bond and was released from jail pending her next court appearance.

December 24, 2011 - 11:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Jacquetta Simmons.

A person has reportedly struck a cashier in Walmart.

The suspect, a black male, has fled and employees are chasing him in the parking lot.

Police are responding.

UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: It sounds like they have a suspect stopped. The victim is in the ladie's restroom, requesting an ambulance. Batavia PD are on scene.

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