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Fox News commentator accused of lying about CIA work pleads not guilty

By MATT ZAPOTOSKY | The Washington Post | Published: October 23, 2015

Wayne S. Simmons, a frequent Fox News commentator, pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that he made up a decades-long career with the CIA to win jobs with government contractors.

The Annapolis, Md., resident, 62, said little more than "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, and his attorney said he was pleading not guilty. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III scheduled his trial to begin Feb. 23.

Simmons was arrested last week and charged with making false statements, major fraud against the United States and wire fraud. According to federal prosecutors, Simmons lied on government documents about having a 27-year career with the CIA to get interim security clearances and jobs with government contractors, including BAE Systems.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Nathanson said in court Friday that Simmons tried to get work with three defense contractors and that one deployed him to Afghanistan to advise U.S. military personnel. Nathanson said he expected Simmons's trial to last two weeks, as prosecutors are in the unusual position of having "to prove a negative."

The case is certainly atypical. Whitney Minter, Simmons's attorney, said she will have to get a top-secret security clearance to review some of the evidence, and Nathanson said he expects to call 20 witnesses for the trial. But prosecutors have asserted that the matter is also relatively simple: Simmons, they have said, persistently used his "supposed CIA affiliation as a trump card," even though he never worked for the agency.

Of particular note, prosecutors have said that Simmons referred to his purported clandestine status in a 2007 incident in Annapolis in which police officers found him assaulting a cabdriver, saying something to the effect of: "I'm CIA. You can't do anything to me."

Cpl. Amy Miguez, an Annapolis police spokeswoman, said that Simmons was not arrested in that incident but that officers sought an emergency petition to have him undergo a mental health evaluation at a hospital. She said she could not provide details because of privacy laws governing medical records and because the police department is not necessarily informed of the results of a person's mental health evaluation.

Prosecutors have said that Simmons had a lengthy criminal record, including 11 charges of drinking and driving and convictions for assault, gambling and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Simmons was a frequent, unpaid expert commentator on Fox News, and he served on the watchdog group Citizens' Commission on Benghazi with former military officials, at least one of whom said Simmons seemed to be knowledgeable about clandestine work.

The group has since removed his name from its list of members, and Fox News host Neil Cavuto has apologized for what he termed a "very big slip-up," if the allegations against Simmons are true.

Although he pleaded not guilty, Simmons's response to the allegations is not known. Minter declined to comment after the hearing. Simmons is being held in jail and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 13 for a status hearing.
 

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