Schenectady County

Defendant in Rotterdam shooting case gets 10-year sentence

Prosecutor Amy Monahan on Wednesday asked the judge to give Brian Simmons 15 years in state prison f

Prosecutor Amy Monahan on Wednesday asked the judge to give Brian Simmons 15 years in state prison for shooting his niece’s boyfriend on Dec. 8, 2009 at Simmons’ home in Rotterdam.

“He loaded the gun and sat there waiting for Joel like he was a deer in the woods,” Monahan said.

The defense asked for closer to the minimum, five years, repeating arguments from the trial that Simmons was defending his wife when he shot and seriously wounded 24-year-old Joel Winkler.

Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye ultimately met the attorneys in the middle, sentencing the 53-year-old Simmons to 10 years in state prison.

Simmons could have faced the maximum, 25 years.

In arriving at the sentence, Hoye noted Simmons had no criminal history and that the shooting happened in his home. But she also noted Simmons shot an unarmed man at close range with a shotgun, when there were other options available to him.

The judge said she believed that it was more likely that Simmons, who had planned to go deer hunting the next morning, was already sitting with the loaded gun when Winkler arrived. And that his judgment was clouded to some extent by alcohol.

The judge also referred to Simmons’ trial testimony. When asked why he didn’t even fire a warning shot, Simmons responded that he “wasn’t mad at my roof.”

“I don’t know whether that was some cavalier remark or not, but he certainly had other alternatives that could have gotten people’s attention and probably completely interrupted the process of what was occurring in that garage that evening,” the judge said.

The shooting happened at Simmons’ home at 1021 Outer Drive. Winkler was the boyfriend of 18-year-old Erika Barrett, Simmons’ niece. Barrett had lived in the Simmons house since turning 18, months before the shooting.

Winkler arrived early the morning of the shooting to get Barrett out of the house, prosecutors said. She’d called Winkler after Simmons told her she had seven days to move out.

When Winkler arrived, Simmons’ wife, Penny, was blocking Barrett’s path to leave. As the struggle to get Barrett from the home ensued, Simmons shot Winkler, hitting him in the armpit area.

The defense argued that Simmons was simply defending his wife and home from a man who wasn’t welcome and who was attacking his wife.

The jury, however, rejected the argument and found Simmons guilty of first-degree assault.

On Wednesday, Simmons quietly told the court that the shooting wasn’t planned. “It’s something that happened, I didn’t plan it.”

Regarding his sentence, Simmons simply said, “I’d like to see my grandson grow up.”

Winkler underwent multiple surgeries after the shooting and still feels the effects today.

He opened the proceedings with his own statement to the court. The shooting, he said, has had a dramatic effect on both his life and Barrett’s life.

“I’m sure she’ll be haunted by the events of that night,” Winkler told the court.

Winkler asked for the maximum.

Simmons did not appear to look at Winkler during Winkler’s statement.

As he was led out of the courtroom, Simmons took a step toward his family but corrections officers blocked his way and kept him moving out.

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