A Genesee County judge threw the book at a Batavia woman Wednesday for punching a 70-year-old Walmart greeter last Christmas Eve.
Genesee County Judge Robert C. Noonan sentenced Jacquetta Simmons, now 27, to five years in prison, after a jury found her guilty of felony second-degree assault following a five-day trial in August.
“We requested the maximum sentence of seven years, and the defense requested probation,” said Genesee County District Attorney Lawrence Friedman. “I’m certainly glad it was a lot closer to what we suggested.”
Simmons knocked down Grace Suozzi with a blow to the face when the Walmart employee tried to check Simmons’ receipt as she was leaving the store on Veterans Memorial Drive the morning of Dec. 24.
Simmons faced two to seven years in prison under New York’s “Granny Law,” which makes it a felony to intentionally injure someone age 65 or older if the defendant is at least 10 years younger than the victim.
Simmons will appeal her sentence.
“I prepared her that she was going to do some time, but I think she and I were both shocked by the amount of time he gave,” said her lawyer, E. Earl Key.
“For one punch?” Key said after the sentencing. “You have people in car accidents that kill other people and get less time than that.”
Simmons and her brother, Isaac Simmons, were leaving Walmart when Suozzi asked her to show a receipt for their merchandise.
Store security video showed the Simmonses refusing to produce a receipt and Jacquetta Simmons swearing at Suozzi before the punch.
The brother and sister fled but were detained in the parking lot by witnesses. Simmons insisted throughout the trial that she accidentally struck the elderly worker after someone grabbed her arm – a claim Friedman called “ridiculous.”
“You’re dealing with a 4-foot-9, 70-year-old gray-haired grandmother who got punched in the head very hard by a 26-year-old woman who was a lot bigger than her.”
Announcement of the sentence followed comments from both sides, including Suozzi, who has been unable to return to work and suffers seizures as a result of the altercation, friends said. Simmons was taken into custody after the verdict.
Key said he is trying to get his client – who is eight months’ pregnant – released while the appeal process is pending.
Simmons has no criminal record and was attending college to earn her bachelor’s degree before having to drop out to deal with the fallout from her arrest, Key said.“We just think the sentence is harsh and excessive, and we intend to appeal on that ground and several others,” Key said.
Genesee Correspondent Bill Brown contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org