The first two videos that Erond Simmons posted on his active YouTube channel went live on Dec. 5, 2018.
One was a local news report about a man driving a stolen trash truck into the Broad Street Run course seven months earlier.
That was quickly followed up with an eight-minute “Borrowed The Trash Truck” soliloquy in which the 42-year-old Wynnefield resident explains “the things that took place in my life that led to the emotional breakdown” which saw him leading police on a chase in Olney as runners made their way south toward the finish line.
Luckily, nobody was injured during the security breach.
That incident – for which he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and fleeing or attempting to elude officer – left Simmons sentenced to two years of probation.
The 156th – and most recent – video he posted on “An Empath’s Journey” went live on Oct. 1. It’s the reason why he was arrested early last week and brought before Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio for a morning hearing on Oct. 10 where he faced a revocation of his probation.
The possible violation had nothing to do with the stolen-truck case, but could be the tilting point that landed him in prison for allegedly threatening the life of a Philadelphia judge.
In the 12-minute video, Simmons holds court about what he deems the perceived injustice of Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Mallios extending an order of protection sought by Simmons’s estranged wife. (It’s one of many videos related to his ongoing custody battle).
“That shit is a scam down there, Family Court,” said Simmons, sitting on a stoop before a bright red door, about 11 minutes into the video. “Judge Mallios. I read energy. C’mon man. You can’t judge me. You need suntan lotion, motherfucker. All living things feed off the sun. If you need a suntan lotion, how you gonna judge me?”
Then, he uttered a couple lines that prompted a Philadelphia Police Department detective assigned to the Homeland Security Unit to reach out to the city’s judiciary with an urgent concern.
“You, you, you [are] dead. Dead man walking,” Simmons said of Mallios, an openly gay attorney who took the bench in 2015 after serving as the University of Pennsylvania’s sexual violence investigative officer and DA Office’s LGBTQ liaison. “Get the fuck out of here. You can’t judge me. I feel good.”
Simmons may have felt good when he filmed that video, but he probably wasn’t when he was led into Courtroom 905 in the Criminal Justice Center, with his hands cuffed. As it turns out, the detective contacted DiClaudio about the video on the afternoon of Oct. 6.
Simmons’s words had been perceived as a potential death threat against
Mallios to the point that a 24-7 security detail has been assigned to him in the days since.
Martin O’Rourke, spokesman for the First Judicial District which oversees Philadelphia courts, said the FJD “would not be commenting” on the situation.
Simmons would soon be taken into custody in advance of Thursday morning’s hearing where his defense attorney – Alison Lipsky of the Public Defender’s Office – and Lyandra Retacco, supervising attorney of the District Attorney’s Office charging unit, would make arguments before DiClaudio about the matter.
Though DiClaudio seemed initially concerned that the DA’s office had decided against filing charges in the case – that’s what the detective initially told him – Retacco noted that no such decision has yet been made.
“That’s incorrect,” said Retacco, whose late father Louis was a municipal judge. “It remains under investigation.”
Lipsky noted that “it seems like this detective has gone rogue” by reaching out directly to a judge with concerns about a YouTube video.
“I have a serious issue with that detective personally calling you,” continued Lipsky, to which DiClaudio responded that it was a reasonable response to what could’ve been an emergency situation worthy of attention. During a rather unusual hearing that lasted a shade under an hour, the sides (and those in the gallery on unrelated matters) would watch the entire video via a laptop on the prosecution’s table.
Simmons shook his head at moments as it played.
The judge said that he didn’t see anything that rose to the level of a probation violation in Simmons being critical of the judge (even profanely), or the racially charged comments about someone who needs suntan lotion (meaning white) being unable to fairly judge an African American defendant.
What he was most concerned about was the “you dead” and “Dead Man Walking” comments. The judge noted that those lines could be taken as death threats that were issued by someone who’d already driven a stolen trash truck onto a closed street where thousands of people were running.
“To me, at first glance, those are threats,” DiClaudio said.
After viewing the video, Lipsky said that Simmons treats the YouTube channel like a “therapeutic” diary of sorts, and has no mental-health issues. Simmons didn’t raise his voice, or show (or allude) to any weapons, added Lipsky, interpreting those lines as her client saying that the judge “is dead inside,” not threatening his life.
“He’s not threatening a judge,” Lipsky argued.
Simmons spoke up in his defense.
“It was just a metaphor, just an allegory,” he explained of his words before confirming that the “sun lotion” comments did translate into his belief that a white judge could not be impartial and fair toward defendants of color. “I’ve been doing good on probation, holding down a job.”
For her part, Retacco said she was concerned for Mallios, as her father wouldn’t tell people what he did for a living or have a listed phone number because of the dangers that judges face.
“I feel for Judge Mallios, the chill that must have gone through him when he’d learned about this,” she said. “But, I think we have to be careful with this case.”
Specifically, she worried about the “chilling effect” that cracking down on people being publicly critical of public officials would have. She said her father drew comparisons to Nazi Germany when it came to stifling free speech.
DiClaudio did not decide whether Simmons’s probation should be revoked in light of the video. He scheduled a follow-up hearing for Oct. 17, by which point Simmons – who will remain in custody – will have undergone a mental-health examination.
“I’m not inclined to release him right now,” said DiClaudio, who will now decide whether those words in the video qualify as a threat.
At that point, Simmons – for whom a stay-away order was issued related to Mallios – will either remain in custody or released with house-arrest restrictions upon him.