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Following an otherwise routine court appearance Monday, the new attorney for Jaquetta Simmons revealed his defensive strategy in the case: he claims Simmons was acting in her own self-defense when she punched out a Wal-Mart cashier.

The 26-year-old Simmons, a Batavia resident, is charged with second-degree assault under a relatively new chapter of the law, which makes any assault on a senior citizen an automatic felony.

In Batavia Town Court Monday, her case was merely continued to March 26th as new lawyer Earl Key familiarizes himself with the background. But outside the courtroom, the Buffalo-based attorney voiced some strong opinions, which go against what police have said all along.

"From what I know of the case so far, this was not an intentional act," says Key.

He's speaking about the night of Christmas Eve, when Simmons checked out several items at Batavia's Wal-Mart and attempted to leave the store. Both sides of the case agree that a secondary cashier, 70-year-old Grace Suozzi, stopped Simmons and asked to see her receipt.

Simmons said no.

Sheriff's reports indicate that at that point, an argument ensued, culminating with Simmons punching Suozzi in the face and fleeing the store. But attorney Earl Key sees it differently.

"I really need to see the surveillance tape," says Key. "But from what I've been told, the Wal-Mart employee jumped on my client, grabbed her."

Key notes that such action is against the Wal-Mart code of conduct that he's read before. In limited correspondence with media, the store has indicated that checking receipts and bags is company policy.

"You can say, 'Well, it's just our policy' – it doesn't mean that your policy is right or lawful," Key says.

He also rejects the notion that the case is about race, even though some have noted Suozzi is white, and Simmons is African-American.

"Some media have mentioned that, and people have mentioned that...but we haven't said anything about race," notes Key. "Nothing."

Key says Simmons is sorry for what happened, and acknowledges the case will be an uphill battle for him as the lawyer – especially because it's been in the public eye so prominently.

 

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