Bowling Brook counselors will not face criminal charges

Isaiah Simmons, 17, died at the school in 2007

Counselors from a former school for troubled youths in Carroll County will face no criminal charges in connection with the death of a student at that school.

Isaiah Simmons of East Baltimore was 17 years old when he died back in 2007.

He had been sent to the Bowling Brook School in Carroll County, after being found responsible for a robbery.

Investigators found that at least five counselors from the school restrained him for more than three hours, and when he stopped breathing, they didn't call 911 for more than 40 minutes.

The medical examiner ruled Isaiah Simmons' death a homicide back in 2007.  But the counselors who restrained him were not charged with murder -- just reckless endangerment, for not calling 911 fast enough.  Now, even those charges have been dropped.

"I have no faith in the justice system right now," said Felicia Wilson, Isaiah Simmons' mother.  "It's not fair. It's not fair. I have seen no fairness in the system of Carroll County as of yet."

Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry Barnes says there are several problems with the case.  The lead investigator, Det. Douglas Epperson of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, faces an allegation of misconduct in a separate case.

The prosecutor says that would make Epperson's testimony unreliable.  Barnes released a statement, saying:  "The inability of Detective Epperson to be called as a witness proved to be the final straw in an already difficult and uphill battle."

The attorney for Isaiah Simmons' family doesn't believe that argument.

"We never felt as if the state's attorney's office really cared too much about this matter,' said the attorney, Steve Heisler.  "You've got seven individuals who are walking the street, who basically got away with murder."

He's attributing the dropped charges to the fact that they stemmed from the death of a young African-American man, in 93-percent white Carroll County.

"We think that if Isaiah was a Caucasian individual from Carroll County that the result as far as what the Carroll County State's Attorney, what they did or what they'd do would be different," Heisler said.

In his statement, State's Attorney Barnes says: "My heart goes out to the family of Isaiah Simmons. They deserve a more satisfactory outcome to these cases."

The statement provides no comfort for Isaiah Simmons' mother.  "It just makes us heartbroken. To see that today, in the United States of America justice is not the same for all," she said.

Felicia Wilson and her attorney say their last hope for criminal charges against those former counselors would come from federal investigators, who at one time were looking into potential civil rights violations.

The family's lawsuit against the state and the Bowling Brook School was settled about two years ago.

A new school has opened on the site in the Keymar section of Carroll County.

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