St. Helena man sentenced to life

A 37-year-old St. Helena Island man will spend the rest of his life in prison for sexually abusing two boys over a two-year period.

After nearly six hours of deliberation, the jury returned Thursday evening to convict James Simmons, Jr. of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The abuse was ongoing from 2009 to 2010 at a home on Seaside Road when the boys were 7- to 9-years-old.

In 2011, the victims disclosed to a family member that they had been abused by Simmons while in his care. The family member contacted the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the victims were interviewed by specialists at Hope Haven, who found their stories to be consistent and credible. Simmons was arrested and charged in 2012.

“One of our jobs as prosecutors is to protect the most vulnerable in our society,” said assistant solicitor Mary Jordan Lempesis. “I am proud of the children in this case for having the courage to tell their story and to prevent this dangerous man from hurting anyone else. The jury carefully deliberated the facts of this case and delivered a verdict that ensured these children’s bravery would be rewarded with justice.”

Based on the charges, Simmons faced a minimum of 25 years in prison. At the conclusion of the three-day trial, Judge Carmen Mullen handed down the maximum sentence, life in prison.

Simmons had prior convictions for criminal domestic violence and malicious injury to personal property.

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