EBENSBURG, CAMBRIA COUNTY - 18 years after Ernie Simmons' first trip to the Cambria County courthouse for murder charges, he was back Friday to find out what rules he'll have to follow when he's out of prison. Plus, his attorney said the state parole board calculated his probation wrong.
"It was clear when we made the plea agreement as to what everything was supposed to be, now it seems those times are shaking around a little bit. Now we got to get that straightened out," Attorney Tom Dickey said.
Dickey said Simmons has already served 8 years of a 10 year probation sentence, but the parole board has him set to serve 10 years once he's released Monday May 17th. The judge said he will have a hearing at a later date to determine who is correct. As for the restrictions of his probation, a director with the parole board testified to a list of more than a dozen and Dickey took issue with most of them.
"I just think they're trying to put together a recipe for disaster. Something that's going to be doomed from the outset, so that was our main concern," Dickey said.
But Judge Timothy Creany sided with the parole board on the restrictions. Now Ernie is forbidden from drinking alcohol or visting places where alcohol is served. He'll have a curfew and have to wear a GPS bracelet. He cannot have contact with Pat Kiniry, the former district attorney who a federal judge said unlawfully prosecuted him, or Richard Rok, the former detective who arrested him. The parole board director said Simmons will be sent to live in Jefferson County. A staff member at 'Just for Jesus Ministries' on Route 28 in Brockway confirmed that mail has arrived there for Simmons and he is expected to move there.
Simmons is restricted from being in Dauphin County, where his foster family lives, or Cambria County where the family of murder victim Anna Knaze still lives. Simmons said he just wants to live a normal life.
"I want to do the same thing you people do. You do your 9 to 5 everyday, you come home to your family, friends and loved ones. I can't do that when you all add stuff to the game," Simmons said.
The attorneys in this case say they are frustrated with the public outcry over his release, but the lack of outcry over the mishandling of the case 18 years ago. WTAJ News will have more on the Simmons case Monday at 6 pm.