Crime

Bribery sentencing delayed for business, government consultant

Robert E. Simmons, June 2011
Robert E. Simmons, June 2011

GULFPORT -- The bribery sentencing of Coast business and government consultant Robert Simmons has been reset for Sept. 15 so prosecutors can calculate intended losses on contracts.

Simmons was scheduled for sentencing in the public corruption case Thursday in U.S. District Court. A federal prosecutor asked for time to obtain subpoenas to get additional information on contract figures. The calculations are critical to Simmons' sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Golden wrote in a court filing.

At Simmons' plea hearing Feb. 18, he admitted to a kickback scheme in which he paid thousands of dollars to former state prison Commissioner Christopher Epps and former Harrison County Supervisor William Martin to influence the awarding of state and county contracts.

Simmons' briberies took place over an eight-year period, from 2005 through 2012.

His company, The Simmons Network, had contracts with a company providing medical services at the Harrison County jail and a company that monitors state probationers and parolees.

He also performed consulting work for a business that performed work at privately-run state prisons in Walnut Grove and Lauderdale.

Bribery carries maximum penalties of 10 years in prison term and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden has placed Simmons on a 24-hour lockdown at his home. Simmons must obtain advance permission from the court to leave his house.

Epps also is confined to his home. Epps resigned Nov. 5, 2014, and has pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

Martin committed suicide at his home Feb. 26, 2015, hours before his arraignment on charges of bribery and witness tampering.

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