Monday, May 26, 2008

Registered sex offender accused of raping 10-year-old relative

Man raped relative, police say

By Alexandra Zayas, Times Staff Writer

Published Sunday, May 25, 2008 11:12 PM


TAMPA — A registered sex offender, recently released from state prison, was arrested early Sunday, accused of a similar crime more grave than his last.

Tampa police say Byron James Simmons, 29, picked up a 10-year-old relative from her home at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. A report says he drove her to Copeland Park on N 15th Street, locked the doors to his van and raped her. He made her promise not to tell anyone. He threatened to hurt her if she did.

Simmons was arrested at 3:47 a.m. Sunday at a North Tampa apartment complex and charged with sexual battery on a child younger than 12, a capital felony. The alleged rape occurred exactly six months after Simmons was released from state prison for a sex offense.

Simmons, whose alias is "Cousin Bo," was convicted in 2003 of attempted lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim between 12 and 15 years old, as well as the sale and possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to five years in prison, with credit for time served, and was released Nov. 24, 2007.

At the time of the alleged crime Sunday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sex offender database listed Simmons as released, or "no longer under Florida Department of Corrections confinement, supervision or any other court imposed sanction."

"There is no excuse to give someone no supervision when they come out," said Judy Cornett, executive director of Safety Zone Advocacy, Inc., which pushes for stricter sex offender restrictions. Cornett became an advocate after her son was raped.

Cornett researched this case as soon as she heard about it. She pushes for a "split sentence" for sex offenders, in which they serve part of their term in jail, and part on probation, undergoing surveillance and therapy. In this case, however, Simmons served all five years in prison, and was not sentenced to probation.

"They don't have control over these people when they're off supervision," she said.

In 1996, Simmons was sentenced to two years probation for carrying a concealed weapon and having a firearm at school. Hillsborough Circuit Court records show he violated that probation and was sentenced to 270 days in jail. Later convictions include assault, possession of cannabis, trespassing and battery.

Simmons, a resident of 3404 N 11th St., is being held in Orient Road Jail with no bail. If convicted, he could face life in prison, without parole.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at or (813) 226-3354.

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