Judge Simms Admits Drinking Problem, Enters Rehab | News
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms says he has struggled with drinking problems and will check into a treatment facility.
Simms issued a news release Tuesday apologizing for the "hurt and embarrassment" caused by a weekend traffic stop. But he did not specifically admit drinking and driving.
The Bibb County sheriff's office is investigating how a deputy handled that traffic stop involving Simms.
Sheriff Jerry Modena and Chief Deputy David Davis say Simms, a former Bibb district attorney, was stopped Saturday night. They say a tipster told them that Simms was driving under the influence. Modena and Davis said they don't know if Simms was drinking or not.
But both of the law enforcement officals confirmed that Simms was administered a field soberity test and that it showed him at .08, which under state law is driving under the influence.
Asked specifically if Simms was DUI, Modena said his departmental probe would determine that.
"That's what we're investigating. That's why we're not saying any more than that now. We're looking at that same thing. We got the man in the field now," Modena.
Modena said reports that a deputy drove Simms home are false. He said Simms drove himself home.
In the news release, Simms wrote that he returned home "under his own power."
Modena said the stop happened sometime Saturday night off Lamar Road in west Bibb County.
Asked if the average citizen would've been allowed to drive home if he or she tested .08 on the field test, Modena said his investigation would determine if Simms was really .08.
The sheriff added that sometimes the field test are one or two points off.
If the investigation reveals his deputies didn't handle the situation properly, Modena said approprate disciplinary action would be taken. That could range from reprimand to suspension to termination.
But Modena said regardless investigation's results, it's unlikely that Simms would be charged with any offense.
Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown told 13WMAZ that Simms informed him of the incident in a phone call. He said Simms told him that he was going into a rehabilitation program.
In June 2010, Macon police said an officer stopped Simms, then District Attorney, near the Freedom Park ballpark and smelled alcohol in his car.
The officer said she recognized the D.A., but did not believe Simms was intoxicated, police said, so she drove him to the ballpark where his son was playing baseball.
Several weeks after that stop, Macon Police Chief Mike Burns said he disagreed with the officer's use of discretion in that case, but that no change in department policy was needed.
In a letter to the Macon City Council, Burns wrote, "I did not agree with the officer's judgment call because it did a disservice to the Macon Police Department and the District Attorney. Without a Field Sobriety Test administered, it gave to much leeway for negative public perception of the incident and removed any chance for either party to defend itself."
Burns declined further comment.
Simms resigned as D.A. in June 2010 to run for Superior Court judge. He was elected in November 2010 for a four-year term.
Simms' complete statement:
Howard Z. Simms, Superior Court Judge Macon Judicial Circuit, canceled court today in order to make arrangements to enter inpatient treatment for alcohol addiction. SImms and his family made this decision following a traffic stop on Saturday, September 22nd. Simms came upon a roadblock and was tested for the presence of alcohol. He was not charged with any offenses and returned home under his own power.
"First, I want to apologize for the hurt and embarrassment i have caused my family, friends and supporters. Drinking and driving is a serious issue and it is not acceptable conduct for anyone, much less a superior court judge. Alcohol addiction is something that I have struggled with for many years and have tried to deal with on my own but I have come to the realization that I need professional help. I really love serving as a superior court judge and feel like I have done a good job on the bench. I want to assure the public that my problems deal with conduct off the bench and that it is not and never has been an issue when i was on the bench. I look forward to getting healthy and returning to doing what I love best, which is being a judge," Simms said.
Simms has also reported this information to the Judicial Qualifications Commission for their review.
The family asks for respect for their privacy at this time. Judge Simms will answer questions upon his release from treatment.