- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

D.C. resident Levar Simms appeared to have a promising future on July 2, 1999, the day he attended a White House ceremony in which President Clinton praised his work protecting bald eagles.

Now, Mr. Simms, a 29-year-old former MetroAccess driver, is in jail on sex-trafficking charges and hoping his volunteer work and the public recognition will set him free on bail before trial.

Federal authorities say he kidnapped a 16-year-old North Carolina girl this summer, held her in a windowless room and then forced her into prostitution in the District. The trafficking charges carry up to 30 years in prison.

Mr. Simms’ attorney, Leonard Long, has filed papers in federal court seeking his client’s release pending trial. The documents include letters of support from family, friends and acquaintances, including references to the White House visit.

Jean Harper said Mr. Simms worked on a conservation film for the Discovery Channel and volunteered at the Eagle Conservation Corps, for which he received recognition from Mr. Clinton.

Deaconess Linda Baskin of the Greater New Hope Baptist Church said Mr. Simms “has never been in any trouble with the law thus far.”

“I do believe that Levar has learned a lesson in choosing his friends,” she wrote.

Federal prosecutors oppose any release for Mr. Simms, saying the support letters are “ill informed and unpersuasive” and of no relevance to the pending charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Hegyi, in legal pleadings filed last week, cited a ruling from a federal magistrate ordering Mr. Simms held without bail in August.

“If true, these charges indicate the defendant poses a serious danger to any vulnerable young women who cross his path,” the memo states.

Mr. Hegyi said Mr. Simms was fired from his MetroAccess job nearly a year before the incident and that government evidence shows he kidnapped the girl from a street in Greensboro.

Mr. Simms threatened and struck her repeatedly in the windowless room until she agreed to prostitute herself, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Hegyi said Mr. Simms forced the girl into prostitution for “his financial benefit.”

Authorities began investigating Mr. Simms in July, after Metropolitan Police Department officers spotted the girl at a convenience store on the 1900 block of Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast, police said.

Police said she told them that a man named “Var” had “put her out on the street” for prostitution.

Authorities said the investigation showed that the girl was living at Mr. Simms’ apartment in Northeast with two other prostitutes. Police said Mr. Simms also placed ads on the Internet to arrange for the girl to meet with men.

In an unrelated pending case, federal prosecutors in the District in October indicted Aaron Burroughs, a former football coach at Bowie High School and Metrobus driver, on charges that he put a 14-year-old girl to work for him as a prostitute.

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