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Kelly man sentenced for possession of firearm by convicted felon

Andrew_SimmonsA Kelly man charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon received a suspended sentence and two years probation Monday morning in Bladen County Superior Court under an Alford plea with the state.

Andrew Jackson Simmons Jr., 72, had more than 140 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his home off N.C. 53 East when Bladen County Sheriff’s Office deputies searched the home in December 2015, according to court statements before Senior Superior Court Judge Douglas B. Sasser.

Simmons had been convicted in 2002 in U.S. District Court on a felony charge for failing to report discharging oil into U.S. waters in 1997.

In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. The court pronounces the defendant guilty.

Assistant District Attorney Glenn Emery told the court that the Sheriff’s Office received a tip from Teresa Simmons – Andrew Simmons’ wife – that he owned a “great quantity” of firearms and that he was a convicted felon. A search warrant was issued and the weapons found.

Simmons was arrested Dec. 18. He also was charged at the time with four counts of possession of weapons of mass destruction because some of the weapons were automatics, Emery said. Those charges were dropped under the agreement.

“Mr. Simmons has been a successful business person,” said Edwin West III, Simmons’ lawyer. “He had a situation in 1997 in which he plead guilty in federal court and took responsibility.

“Mr. Simmons married in 2010 someone who was considerably younger than he was. The marriage began to come apart,” West said. “She used the leverage against Mr. Simmons of being a convicted felon and got him arrested.

“Mr. Simmons has been collecting firearms all of his life. Some are antiques. Some were used in World War II. He had made a provision to pass the collection on to his grandson. This has been deeply embarrassing to him.”

Sasser ordered the disposal of the weapons.

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