COLUMBIA – For the first time, an alleged member of the Cut Throat gang has pleaded guilty to charges related to drug and gun crimes the gang is accused of committing.
Robert Darnell Simmons, 36, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court for the Western District of Missouri to conspiracy to illegally possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and a crime of violence; to possession of firearms with the intent to intimidate or injure another person and to fire a weapon into a group of people; and to possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Missouri.
Simmons was one of 16 people indicted by a federal grand jury in January following an 18-month investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Columbia Police Department and the FBI. It was the first time police had officially acknowledged the presence of significant gang activity in Columbia.
Most of the charges against Simmons stem from a May 2008 drive-by shooting at the Petro Mart gas station near Falling Leaf Lane, in which a 29-year-old man was shot in the face by a passenger in the car Simmons was driving. The passengers in the car thought the man was a member of a rival gang with whom they were feuding, the release states. The victim was not associated with any rival gang.
Simmons was then arrested along with 20-year-old Diondre J. Cooper in July 2008 in connection with the shooting. Brandon James Isom, 19, was also charged with firing a weapon in the Petro-Mart incident. Both men have pleaded not guilty, according to previous Missourian reports.
Simmons also admitted to purchasing crack and powder cocaine from members of the Cut Throat gang, and to selling and distributing cocaine to members of the gang and others, the release states. The total amount distributed was more than one kilogram of cocaine.
Simmons had previously pleaded not guilty on Feb. 2 in federal court to similar charges. His guilty plea on Thursday was in response to a new indictment filed on April 3.
Under federal statutes, Simmons now faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole, and could be sentenced to up to 60 years without parole, plus a fine of up to $2.25 million, the release states.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes a presentence investigation.