The email arrived around lunchtime on a recent Wednesday.
“I was asked by Erond to reach out to you and let you know that he is currently incarcerated at (Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility) on State Road,” it read. “He said that Friday, the ankle monitor was swapped off and by Saturday, the police were taking him into custody.”
That message came from a friend of Erond Simmons, the subject of an Oct. 15 story which detailed the 42-year-old Wynnefield resident’s penchant for posting YouTube videos and the troubles they’ve caused in his life.
Resembling a public diary, his 161 dispatches are about many things, but primarily his ongoing custody and order-of-protection battles with his estranged wife in Family Court.
The reason they were of note is that Simmons – who once drove a stolen trash truck onto the Broad Street Run course – was hauled into court (handcuffed) to answer allegations that he’d leveled threats against Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Mallios in an Oct. 1 video.
After an Oct. 10 hearing, Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio issued an order forcing the defendant to stay away from Mallios, who received a 24/7 security detail as a precautionary measure.
DiClaudio also placed Simmons on house arrest, a violation of which prompted the email from a friend of Simmons, who reportedly left home a half-hour earlier than permitted.
As he is wont to do, prior to reincarceration, Simmons posted a pair of videos about the Oct. 10 hearing. They’re titled “10 Days In Jail For A Youtube Video” and “Judge Calls Me A Racist In The Courtroom” and show that he wasn’t all that happy about what happened in court.
Surprisingly, he was happy enough about the media coverage to leave his email address and declare himself available for interviews, which is how PW came to meet up with Erond inside his aunt’s home in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood.
Over the course of two hours, he sat on a couch in the rowhome. Delighted that someone was there to hear him out, he alternated between smiles, laughs and expressions of introspection as ESPN looped on a nearby television. His cousin locked the front door as he left the premises.
“We can’t sit on the porch and talk,” he said. “If I go out on the porch, the [court ordered] ankle-monitor will beep and I’ll get in trouble.”
Simmons spoke openly about the threat allegations, his mental health, his desire to be a stand-up comedian (interwoven with his love of the new movie “Joker,” eerily punctuated with laughter that unwittingly resembled the title character’s) and how it feels to have not seen his son for two years.
He also responded to concerns – shared with him – that the videos victimize an estranged wife in a relationship that hasn’t reached the finalized-divorce phase.
Simmons started off by repeating a mantra from previous videos that “there are some really good judges in Family Court,” even though he slams the two most recent ones (Mallios and DiClaudio) in his recent clips.
The spiral to where he is today starts, in Simmons’ estimation, with deaths in his family, and difficulty holding onto, and finding, jobs both before and after the trash-truck theft, which he chalked up to being “very emotional.”
He cited numerous instances of getting fired from waste-management jobs, including once for urinating near a truck, an allegation which he pushed back against, using the argument, “If there’s no piss, you must dismiss.” (In other cases, he said, he fell victim to racist or incompetent bosses, or couldn’t get back on the job after a work-related injury.)
He said the ramifications of not being able to find regular paychecks caused strains in his relationship, which proved to be irreparable, he said of a wife on which he claims not to dwell anymore.
Several times over the course of the interview, he hearkened back to not seeing his 5-year-old son for the past two years, a direct result of the order of protection issued by Judge Mallios.
“Nobody wanted to hear my problems, so I just exploded,” he said. “It’s hard being in a relationship when you can’t talk to anybody. There’s only so much you can take without having a way to release it.”
It was that mindset that led to the trash-truck incident.
“People said I was trying to commit ‘suicide by cop,’ but it wasn’t me (when the trash-truck incident happened.) It was an out-of-body experience,” he said of taking a truck from his former employer’s lot in Southwest Philly and making his way to Broad Street, via Roosevelt Boulevard, before blasting through the yellow tape designed to keep vehicles away from runners.
“When they got me out of the truck, it was like that scene in ‘Trading Places’ when all the cops are pointing guns at Eddie Murphy,” he said. “I had no intent to harm anyone. I needed that time in jail to sort things out. I felt alive. I told God if you get me out of this one, I’m going to do all the things I’ve been putting off.”
In one respect, that time in CFCF’s D Block led him to think that writing a book “would help me control my narrative because I’m tired of people telling half-truths about me.” He also said that – before the house-arrest restrictions – he hit open-mic nights for a stand-up routine that, as described, sounded more like a spoken-word memoir than delivering prepared jokes.
“That’s my passion,” said Simmons, a one-time star basketball player at the now-defunct Robert E. Lamberton High School in Overbrook Park, who claimed he’d gotten a scholarship offer from Bloomsburg University. “‘Joker’ is a great movie. You really need to see it. I’m going to make something out of this.”
“He stomped my phone and said this is what he should be doing to me. I told him I will change the locks and he said if I do, he will kick the door down and come after me and I will see crazy.”— Excerpt of filed protection order of protection against Erond Simmons by his wife who had her case against him backed by human rights organization, Women Against Abuse
It did nothing to help salvage an unsalvageable relationship with his wife – whose name is being withheld from this story both for her privacy, and because attempts to reach her for comment via phone listing found online and Facebook Messenger were unsuccessful.
A spokesman for the court system told PW that Women Against Abuse was representing the woman in her protection from abuse (PFA) case against Simmons. A spokeswoman for the organization said they are prohibited from speaking about specific cases – or confirming whether she’s a client – because of “state and federal laws around confidentiality for survivors of intimate partner violence.”
Though Simmons claimed he never got violent with his wife, the order of protection she was granted includes details of an April 16, 2016 confrontation in which he allegedly “grabbed my phone and was saying I was a bad mother and he was antagonizing me and bother me.”
“He stomped my phone and said this is what he should be doing to me,” her report stated. “I told him I will change the locks and he said if I do, he will kick the door down and come after me and I will see crazy. He kept following me and grabbing me. He kept taking the baby from me.”
The report also noted that the couple had been married two years at that point, that Simmons “grabbed and shook” her in the past and that he’d been 302’d for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in the past. (Despite that, he said he’s not mentally ill.)
After her other son from a previous relationship called the police that 2016 night, Simmons reportedly tried to make amends the next day.
“He came upstairs and played the video of him harassing me,” she told authorities. “He kissed me on my forehead and said it’s OK and I am batshit crazy and he will get me some help.”
He reiterated that insult during this interview at his aunt’s home with PW as he shared the frustrations of orders of protection making it impossible for him to see his son, a young boy who’s shown happily singing and dancing in a video his mother posted on Facebook several months ago.
Mallios extending that order earlier this year is what prompted the videos that landed Simmons back in court and, subsequently, custody.
When it comes to a discussion about his mental health, he said he’s dealing with it, but didn’t want to delve too deeply into how “everybody wants me to take meds.”
“I have nothing to hide. I am not a bad guy,” he said, before noting that he’d like to sit down and talk with famous people who’ve had mental-health challenges because “I can relate to crazy.”
He was asked if he grasped why people might think those last statements would appear to show some traces of craziness.
“Yeah, I understand that,” he responded, during an interview about which he posted a video recap afterward. “And that’s OK, too. I don’t regret the videos. I’m just having life experiences and learning from them. I’m losing if I don’t learn from them.”
He conceded that being unable to see his son “does drive me nuts.” It doesn’t help that the memory he carries of their last visit, two years ago, was his son crying and pleading to stay with him, or when they saw each other at a court hearing, “he ran up and gave me a big hug.”
Since contacting his estranged wife would violate the order, he can’t even safely plead his case before a custody hearing in April 2020.
As for the alleged threats in the video, he said he was misunderstood, that he had “no intent to harm” Mallios. He was shocked when sheriff’s deputies showed up at his sister’s house looking for him because of YouTube videos.
As he was making his case to a reporter, Simmons’s probation officer called. He explained the details of a newly worked-out schedule that affords him the chance to go to work in hospital environmental services – “cleaning up bloody rooms” – during the graveyard shift at an area hospital.
Simmons had the phone on speaker mode.
“You can leave at 9:30 p.m. and you have to be back at 8:30 a.m.,” the officer explained, noting that Simmons would soon be scheduled for a mental-health assessment per the court order. “Not 9:28. Not 8:32. If you do that, we’ll get an alert and you’ll get locked up.”
Simmons nodded that he understood, before responding vocally.
“House arrest might be a blessing for me,” he said.
Four days later, he’d be back in custody, where he remained as of the time of this report, the only blessing he’d see is another legal entanglement on the path toward putting his life back together.