ROCKVILLE, Md. - A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge, Marielsa Bernard, sentenced a 28-year-old woman to 18 years behind bars on Tuesday.
Stephen Simms, a transgender woman, faced a number of charges for three separate armed robberies throughout the county.
According to court documents, Simms was charged with armed robbery, theft, and assault for an incident at Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase back in July of 2016.
She was charged with similar crimes for an armed robbery at Ilori Optical in Chevy Chase in December of 2016 and at the Spec New York store inside the Westfield Montgomery Mall in January of 2017.
In all three cases, Simms was accused of pepper-spraying at least one employee.
"These people that work at these stores will forever be leery of customers because of these attacks," says Ramon Korionoff, Public Affairs Director for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office. "I mean these are people that went in, stole the high-end hand bags or the high-end sunglasses or other merchandise, and pepper sprayed them in their efforts to get away."
Simms apologized to Judge Bernard for her behavior, but proceeded to deny certain accusations, including pepper spraying other bystanders in the mall following the Spec New York store robbery. She went back and forth with the judge for a period of time.
When Judge Bernhard handed down the sentence, Simms attempted to leave, saying, "You just took my whole life away."
Before leaving the courtroom, Simms' mom told DCW50 she was "absolutely devastated."
Korionoff said they believe the judge's decision was more than fair given the severity of the crimes.
"It’s really important to know that the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Montgomery County Police Department take it seriously, these aren’t victimless crimes, these are crimes that affect us all."