Former Del. Deputy AG Daniel Simmons
Former Del. Deputy AG Daniel Simmons ()

Former Deputy Attorney General Daniel Simmons pleaded not guilty Aug. 20 to charges that he raped a 16-year-old youth. His trial has been scheduled for Feb. 16.

Simmons, 34, wore a black suit and thick glasses when he appeared before Judge William L. Witham Jr. in a New Castle County Courthouse courtroom last week for his arraignment and initial case review.

Eugene Maurer, Simmons’ attorney, entered a plea of not guilty to four counts of fourth-degree rape.

Joe Hurley was initially representing the defendant and was his attorney as recently as early June. However, Maurer said upon leaving the courtroom, it was Simmons’ choice to change attorneys, but declined to provide more information.

Neither Maurer nor prosecutor Peggy Marshall discussed any evidence or the possibility of reaching a plea bargain.

“We are not close to a final discussion about a resolution,” Maurer told Witham.

Maurer later told the court Simmons “is doing a lot of things” he planned to bring to the state’s attention, but did not elaborate.

Marshall is a member of the Attorney General’s Sussex County Office. The Sussex County office is handling the prosecution because Simmons had worked as a prosecutor for the New Castle County misdemeanor trial unit when he was employed with the Attorney General’s Office.

Witham scheduled Simmons’ three-day jury trial for 10 a.m. Feb. 16. The date to submit discovery and expert witnesses was set for Oct. 22 and a final case review is scheduled to occur Feb. 10.

Marshall did not comment as she left the courtroom. Maurer did not discuss the case beyond confirming that he was now representing Simmons.

Simmons had worked for the Attorney General’s Office since November 2006. He was placed on administrative leave immediately after his May arrest and resigned May 5.

State prosecutor Kathleen Jennings released a statement the day Simmons resigned confirming his departure.

“The Department of Justice today secured Daniel Simmons’ immediate resignation,” Jennings said in the May 5 statement. “We are deeply disturbed by the conduct alleged in this case. We are most concerned for the welfare of the victim. This case will be vigorously pursued to justice. Ethically, we are prohibited from saying more.”

The alleged victim is a 16-year-old Delaware high-school student. He met a New York University student identified only as “Matt” through the gay dating social-network app Grindr, according to the arrest affidavit. Matt agreed to meet the teenager March 16 and took him to Simmons’ Wilmington home, where the sexual encounter occurred, the affidavit alleged.

A staff member at the alleged victim’s school learned of the incident and alerted New Castle County detectives March 26, according to the affidavit.

The police concluded their investigation May 2 and notified the Department of Justice, who approved Simmons’ arrest. Simmons was later released after posting $45,000 secured bail, according to an announcement from the New Castle County Police.

When asked if Matt will be charged in connection with the alleged rape, prosecutors referenced 11 Del. C. Sections 770(a)(2), 771(a)(1), 772 and 773. Under those portions of state law, an individual who has consensual sex with someone between 16 and 18 years old must be over 30 in order for the encounter to be considered a crime.

Therefore, under Delaware law, if an adult aged 20 to 30 has consensual sex with a 16-year-old individual, it is not a crime.

Although Matt’s specific age has not been released, sources familiar with the case have identified the New York University student as “college age.”

Prosecutors involved in the case declined to comment on whether Matt was cooperating in the case.

Simmons is said to have been aware of the alleged victim’s age during the encounter, according to court documents.

The alleged victim said he had spoken with Simmons in the past about the former prosecutor’s “desire to engage in a sex act with a younger person, with the target age being a high-school age male,” according to the arrest affidavit. In addition, the victim also said Matt advised Simmons of the alleged victim’s age prior to meeting at Simmons’ house. The 16-year-old also claimed he told Simmons that he was in the 10th grade when they met at the former prosecutor’s house and said to Simmons, “I’m only 16, take it easy on me,” during the sexual encounter.

New Castle County Police said in May they believe there are other victims and asked for anyone with information about Simmons to contact them. However, it is unclear if any victims have come forward with additional claims against Simmons.

The Delaware and Pennsylvania supreme courts each temporarily suspended Simmons from practicing law, pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings. Under the suspension’s terms, Simmons is barred from collecting legal fees and having contact with clients or witnesses. He is also barred from acting as a paralegal, legal assistant or law clerk while he is suspended.

Attorney General Beau Biden has not publicly commented on Simmons’ arrest and resignation. The protection of children from sexual exploitation has been the focal point of his two terms as Delaware’s chief law enforcement official. Perhaps Biden’s most high-profile prosecution resulted in the conviction of serial child sexual-abuser Earl Bradley. The former Lewes pediatrician was convicted on charges of rape, second-degree assault and sexual exploitation of children and sentenced to 14 consecutive life terms plus 164 years.

Jeff Mordock can be contacted at 215-557-2485 or jmordock@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffMordockTLI.