The lawsuit alleges that Vincent Simmons was “framed” for the attempted rape of two 14-year-old girls, with local officials conspiring to protect the real perpetrator’s family honor.
A Black Louisiana man who spent 44 years in prison for a series of attempted rapes he did not commit has filed a lawsuit against the officials who prosecuted him, claiming they were involved in a conspiracy and cover-up to frame him.
According to NBC News, Vincent Simmons’ conviction was overturned in February by a judge who said that the 70-year-old inmate did not receive a fair trial.
In the ruling, the judge said that jurors were prevented from hearing evidence that could have exonerated Simmons.
NBC News notes that Simmons was eventually convicted of the attempted, aggravated rape of two 14-year-old twin sisters by a jury consisting of 11 White men and a single Black woman.
Simmons was subsequently sentenced to serve two consecutive 50-year prison terms for each attempted rate.
In his lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Western Louisiana, Simmons and his attorneys allege that Avoyelles Parish prosecutors and sheriff’s department officials framed him to “cover up” for a prominent White family.
The complaint suggests that Keith Laborde—a cousin of the two twins—had sexually molested one of the sisters.
Laborde, adds NBC News, was the son of the Avoyelles Parish assessor.
Robert Laborde, a relative of the Laborde family and then a sheriff’s deputy, arrested Simmons “on view” and without any reason to believe that the Black man had been involved in the crime.
“Robert Laborde processed Simmons, pressured Simmons to confess, and physically assaulted and indeed shot Simmons when he refused to admit guilt,” the lawsuit claims.
“Two of the defendants in this case, with powerful positions as parish assessor and deputy sheriff, were named Laborde, and with family honor at stake, they collaborated under color of law with their fellow officers to ensure that Simmons was put away,” the lawsuit says.
The twins, writes NBC News, did not immediately report the attempted rape. Once they did, a line-up was ordered. Simmons was the only suspect placed in handcuffs, and the twins flagged him as the perpetrator.
Key evidence was omitted during the trial, including the fact that one of the twins’ hymens was intact and uninjured. This information, notes CBS, was never forwarded to Simmons’ defense attorneys.
CBS further notes that Avoyelles Parish officials purportedly “coached” the twins and Keith Laborde to “identify Simmons by name and to get their stories about when and how the alleged rapes had happened.”
Simmons is demanding a jury trial for unspecified damages.