Court upholds man’s 99-year sentence under ‘3 strikes’ sex-crimes law
A man ordered to spend nearly a century in prison after his third conviction for a felony sex crime was properly sentenced under a state "three strikes" law, according to judges who rejected his appeal.
An Alaska Court of Appeals decision was released Friday in 47-year-old William H. Simmonds' challenge of his 99-year sentence, on an April 2013 count of second-degree attempted sexual abuse of a minor. Court records show Simmonds — who had two prior convictions for sexual abuse of a minor, dating back to 1994 — was convicted of the 2013 crime three years later. All of the offenses took place in Utqiagvik.
Superior Court Judge Angela Greene sentenced Simmonds in the 2013 case under sentencing law revised by the state Legislature in 2006, requiring a 99-year prison term for a third felony sex crime if “the defendant has two prior convictions for sexual felonies.” Simmonds appealed that sentence as unconstitutional, under state law barring “ex post facto” laws increasing the penalties for crimes he had already committed.
“In particular, Simmonds argues that the Legislature’s creation of the term 'sexual felonies' retroactively changed the meaning of his prior convictions, violating Alaska’s ex post facto prohibition,” the decision read. “The State responds that, because the statutory change did not change Simmonds’s sentence for his prior convictions but only changed the presumptive range for his current conviction based on his prior convictions, there is no ex post facto violation.”
The three-judge appellate court sided with the state, finding that the Legislature’s changes to sentencing law increased the penalty for Simmonds’ 2013 conviction, not his previous ones. The court also rejected Simmonds’ claim that the revised statute’s mention of prior “sexual felonies” reclassified his crimes as “incorrect.”
“The Legislature’s imposition of a 99-year presumptive term for defendants with two or more prior sexual felony convictions did not change the definition of the prior crimes or increase Simmonds’s sentence for those past crimes,” the decision read. “Rather, it imposed an increased sentence for his current crime based on the existence of those prior crimes.”
Simmonds remains in custody at the Wildwood Correctional Center, according to a statewide inmate database. As a result of his convictions, he is registered in the state’s sex offender registry.
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