BALLSTON SPA Eric Simmons had more in mind than just catching a ride home with a female acquaintance over the Labor Day weekend nearly three years ago.
Then 49, he knew the girl through several of her friends and solicited a ride back to Milton amid a driving rain during the early morning hours on Sept. 5, 2011. He directed the woman to an isolated area in Milton and then gestured to shake her hand when he exited the vehicle.
Instead, Simmons pulled the driver from her car and attempted to sexually assault her as she lay on the rain-soaked ground. The woman was able to ward off the attack and then flee the area in her car, but she has never forgotten how performing a simple favor ended with a violent struggle.
“My faith in people’s humanity is very different now,” she explained at Simmons’ sentencing in Saratoga County Court on Tuesday. “I used to give people the benefit of the doubt, but now I don’t … I used to be so much more trusting of new people — not anymore.”
Simmons, now 52, was ordered to serve up to 12 years in prison Tuesday after being found guilty of sex crimes and felony assault in June. He was also ordered to serve 20 years of post-release supervision.
On the morning of the attack, Simmons tore the woman’s clothing and made sexual contact. Later, after she relayed what happened to investigators with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, she was able to direct them back to the scene of the attack to recover evidence.
Authorities were able to locate the woman’s bracelet, watch, a key that had been in her pocket and a broken belt that had been torn from her pants. DNA evidence was also secured, linking Simmons to the attack.
But before investigators could make an arrest, Simmons fled the state. He remained on the lam for more than two years, until authorities in Tennessee apprehended him on a fugitive warrant.
“Despite the passage of time, the Sheriff’s Department never forgot about this victim or this case,” District Attorney James Murphy III said in a statement. “Justice, although delayed, was ultimately served.”
Simmons was found guilty on all five counts lodged against him after a six-day bench trial. His victim, who testified at trial, confronted him again in the courthouse Tuesday, explaining how the ordeal has caused her to distrust people.
“I also never cared about being alone … now I hate to be alone,” she said. “I even avoid going anywhere near that area where he attacked me.”