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Former Minn. pastor's sex abuse charges stand years later

Ellis William Simmons

DULUTH, Minn.—Prosecutors can move forward with the case against a former Duluth youth pastor accused of sexually abusing two girls more than a decade ago, a judge ruled recently.

Ellis William Simmons, 38, is accused of sexually assaulting two victims between approximately 2000 and 2005. He was charged with three felonies in June, shortly after being released from an Illinois prison where he was incarcerated for similar crimes that occurred after he left Duluth.

Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson in late October denied a defense motion seeking dismissal of the charges on the basis that they were barred by statute of limitations.

Simmons served as a pastor to the alleged victims and a babysitter for the family of at least one of the girls, according to a criminal complaint. The charging document indicates that one victim reported two incidents that occurred when she was 11 years old; the other reported an incident when she was 14.

Both alleged victims told police that they were sleeping when they awoke to sexual contact from Simmons, according to the charges. The contact allegedly included penetration.

While partial reports were made to law enforcement in the early 2000s, St. Louis County prosecutor Jon Holets said the victims only recently came forward with additional information — including, in one instance, Simmons' name — that made charges possible.

Under Minnesota law, charges in child sexual abuse cases must be filed within nine years of the offense date or three years of the initial report to law enforcement, whichever comes later.

But Johnson noted in an eight-page order that the time requirements are suspended for any period of time when the defendant is not a resident of the state. The judge said evidence indicates that Simmons moved from Minnesota shortly after the reports were first made.

"The limitation time was tolled on September 12, 2005, leaving a little over four years before the statute of limitations ran out," Johnson wrote of the oldest charge. "Because ... Defendant never returned to Minnesota prior to being extradited from California to St. Louis County in July of 2017, the State has not violated the statute of limitations provision by filing charges."

Simmons was released from an Illinois prison in December 2016 after serving nearly five years of a seven-year sentence for sexually abusing three girls ranging in age from 7 to 10. He had been working at a juvenile detention center; authorities said the abuse was not related to his employment, but the victims were known to him.

Simmons is due back in court on Nov. 27.