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CT- Man sentenced in Milford motel shooting

6-12-2009 Connecticut:

MILFORD -- A South Carolina man's alleged sexual relationship with the man he fatally shot in a local motel was at the heart of the case, the victim's family said Friday.

The parents and brother of Tony Lee Simons contend that James Street, who fatally shot Simons on July 12, 2007, had been sexually abusing him for years.

Street was sentenced to 10 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter by Judge Eddie Rodriguez Jr. in Milford Superior Court.

Street, 68, will get credit for the 23 months he has been in custody, the judge said.

Christine Simons held a photo of her son as she addressed Street in court. "You posed as the Mr. Rogers of our neighborhood, but as time went by I learned that you are a master manipulator and a child molester,'' she said.

Simons, who was 37 when he was killed, had gone to live with Street when he was young, and the older man had financially supported him. Later, he also helped to support Simons' wife and children, according to testimony Friday.

But Christine Simons said that Tony was only one of several boys and young men that Street had taken advantage of, and that the defendant had gotten her son hooked on drugs as a way to control him.

Relatives of Street, in a wheelchair and clad in a beige prison uniform, also were in court Friday, offering their support and a very different image of the defendant.

The two men became acquainted in Pacolet, S.C., but Simons later moved to Virginia.

The shooting took place when Street was staying in a Milford motel and working on a Bridgeport job site. Simons had come to visit him here and tried to get him a job, police said.

When officers were dispatched to the motel to investigate the shooting, a dying Simons had told them that his father shot him, court records show. Street had referred to Simons as his stepson. The men apparently quarreled over Simons' plans to return home, police said.

Jeff Simons told Rodriguez that none of the hotel staff had seen his brother drunk or angry that night, and if Simons intended to leave the motel using Street's truck, "why would he go back into the room?''

"Whether there was an inappropriate relationship between the two, and there were overtones of that, it's never been proven,'' said Charles Stango, the chief assistant state's attorney.

"I'd like the court to focus on what happened in that room that night,'' Stango told Rodriguez. The case was on the verge of going to trial when Street accepted a plea deal. Stango said the defendant likely would have claimed self-defense, and that Street's age and poor health might influence a jury.

"How do you get justice?'' the prosecutor asked. "How do you put your arms around all that?'' ..Source.. by Frank Juliano, STAFF WRITER

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