Etowah County Chief Administrator Patrick Simms has turned himself in to authorities in Chambers County on a charge of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.
The Chambers County Sheriff's Office website issued a news release on Friday saying Simms was named as a suspect February 8 when Chambers County's Criminal Investigative Division received a complaint about possible abuse.
|Etowah County Chief Administrator Patrick Simms|
Simms has been Etowah County's Chief Administrator, the highest ranking non-elected official in the county government, since January 2006. In 2012 the Alabama County Administrators Association named him county administrator of the year.
On Friday, February 13, the Etowah County Commission held a called meeting, then went into executive session to discuss issues related to "courthouse security and technology."
When they returned, they voted to place Simms on administrative leave with pay, and did not give a reason or comment further.
A day earlier, FOX6 News had tried to reach Simms for an unrelated story, but despite our being told he was in the Etowah County Courthouse and had been tied up in meetings, he never returned our calls.
District 1 Commissioner Joey Statum told FOX6 briefly by phone the commission likely won't take any further action until next week, because four commissioners are flying to Washington to discuss the Highway 77 Southside bridge project with federal officials.
Statum says the next move is also predicated on hearing from Simms' attorney.
The Chambers County Sheriff's Office asks if anyone has any information about this case or any similar incidents to contact them or call Crime Stoppers.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A federal grand jury has indicted a former Ute tribal leader who is accused of sexually abusing a child.
On Thursday, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Brooke C. Wells unsealed a four-count indictment that charges Richard Jenks Jr. with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child within Indian Country and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor within Indian Country.
Jenks sexually abused a girl from the time she was 10 years old until she was 16, assistant U.S. attorney Drew Yeates said in court. DNA evidence recovered from items collected at Jenks' house corroborate the alleged victim's account of the ongoing abuse, the prosecutor said, adding that the government's case is "extremely strong."
Yeates asked the judge to keep Jenks in federal custody until the case is resolved, but defense attorney Rudy Bautista argued that his client hasn't made any threats against the alleged victim or tried to flee in the months since his arrest.
"We believe there are already safeguards in place," Bautista told the court.
|Richard Jenks Jr, former member of Ute Indian Tribe's governing council|
Bautista noted that Jenks does not have any contact with children and has a home in Fort Duchesne, where he has strong family and community ties. Yeates countered that Jenks is in the middle of a divorce and his estranged wife wants to live in the house with the couple's children.
"She fled to Nevada with the kids (after Jenks' arrest)," Yeates said, adding that the woman believes the area where she is living now is unsafe for her children and would like to return to Utah.
Wells announced that she witnessed some of Jenks' supporters in the courtroom shaking their heads as Yeates spoke and saw others whispering to each other. She called a brief recess to talk to the attorneys.
"I'm concerned at the reaction I saw from those in the gallery," Wells said when she took the bench again, adding that she wanted FBI agents and Bureau of Indian Affairs police to watch for "any retaliation against the victim or her family."
Wells ordered Jenks to remain in custody until a bed is available at a federal halfway house in Salt Lake, or until suitable arrangements can be made for him to live somewhere along the Wasatch Front.
Outside the courtroom, Bautista said he plans to look into the possibility that Jenks has been falsely accused.
"I do intend to investigate thoroughly the possible motivation for fabricating these allegations," he said.
Jenks, 56, has served more than one term on the Ute Tribe Business Committee, where he represented members of the tribe's Uncompahgre Band. The six-member Business Committee exercises executive and legislative power on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation in northeastern Utah. Jenks' most recent term in office ended in April 2013.
The tribal court case against Jenks is expected to be dismissed, now that the federal case has been filed. A conviction on the federal aggravated sex abuse charge carries a mandatory sentence of 30 years to life in prison. The sex abuse charge carries a possible sentence of up 15 years in prison.