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Montezuma County court seals case of bondsman shooting

Freedom Anderson and Clint Simmons
Bail bondsman Clint Simmons shot fugitive Freedom Anderson

A case involving a bail bondsman who shot and injured a fugitive in Cortez has been sealed by the Montezuma County Courts.

Bail bondsman Clint Simmons said he accidentally shot Freedom Anderson during a struggle to arrest him in Cortez Sept. 30, according to a Cortez Police Department incident report.

In December, the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s office reported it planned to charge Simmons with second-degree felony assault, felony menacing, misdemeanor prohibited use of a weapon and misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

However, the outcome of the case is not public record because it has been sealed by the court, said District Attorney Matt Margeson.

“The only thing I can tell you pursuant to statute is that a public criminal record does not exist with respect to the individual you have contacted me about,” Margeson said Tuesday.

According to the statute, a judge can order a case be sealed when there is an acquittal, charges are dismissed, or a deferred sentence or diversion has been successfully completed.

Simmons was scheduled for a return of filing of charges, arraignment and preliminary hearing Jan. 6, but no record of the hearing or sealing of records order was available at the Montezuma County Combined Court.

Dec 7, 2021
Prosecutors file criminal charges against bail bondsman who shot Durango fugitive

Criminal records can be ordered sealed by the court under Colorado Revised Statute 24-72-703.

“Upon the entry of an order to seal criminal records, the defendant may properly reply, upon an inquiry into the matter, that public criminal records do not exist with respect to the petitioner or defendant who is the subject of the sealed record,” the statute says.

A judge rules whether a person’s record can be sealed.

A statute allows the public to petition the court to unseal criminal records. It states:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, any member of the public may petition the court to unseal any court file of a criminal conviction that has previously been sealed upon a showing that circumstances have come into existence since the original sealing and, as a result, the public interest in disclosure now outweighs the defendant's interest in privacy.”

Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Jeffrey Roberts stated in a 2019 article that in “2016 the Colorado Legislator adopted a simplified and expedited process for sealing the criminal records of defendants who are acquitted or have completed a diversion agreement or a deferred sentence, or their cases are dismissed.”

Criminal records that are sealed do not show up on criminal background checks. They are still available for viewing by law enforcement.

Sealed records are part of the “clean-slate movement” intended to clear a person’s record of petty offenses or dismissed charges that could inhibit future employment or housing on background checks, said CFOI President Steve Zansberg, a public information attorney.

Traffic convictions and defendants convicted of serious crimes are not eligible for sealed records.

Shooting took place in Cortez

Simmons, 61, told police he accidentally shot Anderson, 26, with a .40 caliber Glock at 510 E. Arbecam Ave., about a block northwest of Kemper Elementary School.

Simmons involved Cortez police officers and two of his bonding agents in the pursuit of Anderson, who, he said, had jumped bail, according to the police report.

Simmons said he went to the Arbecam home and drew his firearm, stating that he knew Anderson to carry guns.

Simmons and his agents struggled with Anderson at the Arbecam Avenue home after Simmons informed Anderson that he was under arrest and instructed him to move to the ground at gunpoint. Anderson ran, and Simmons caught up with him and tried to restrain him.

Simmons told police both fell to the ground after colliding with a gate on the property. Simmons then moved to grab Anderson, he said.

Anderson began to struggle with Simmons and two other bonding agents. Simmons still held his gun and unintentionally fired it as it touched Anderson’s shoulder, he told police.

Police said Anderson was not found with any weapon.

The sequence of events was confirmed by analysis of video surveillance, police said. Simmons was cooperative and surrendered his gun to police, the report said. Nine rounds were in the gun.

Police found Anderson lying on the driveway at Arbecam home, conscious and screaming in pain with a gunshot wound on his left arm.

An evaluation at Southwest Memorial Hospital showed Anderson sustained serious injuries, including a humerus fracture, the report said. He was flown to Lutheran Medical Center in Denver for further care.

Simmons was involved in a similar incident in December 2010 when he fired his gun – also a .40 caliber Glock – while attempting to arrest a wanted man in the 20000 block of County Road 19. Simmons told police he fired the shots at the ground while chasing the man, but the man argued that Simmons pointed his gun at him, although he was not struck by the bullets, according to a Montezuma County Sheriff’s report.

Simmons told police he carried the gun for safety, and that the chase took place in tall grass. At the time, Simmons told officers he always assumes a wanted subject is also carrying a weapon, the report said. The report did not specify whether the wanted man carried a weapon.

Simmons was charged with Class 3 misdemeanor reckless endangerment for the incident, but in 2011, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com