EVANSVILLE. Ind. — The magistrate had a message for student-athlete Jamir Simpson, who pleaded guilty to firearm and drug charges after being accused of firing a handgun at a car last month.
“You have God-given talent and abilities that the vast majority of the population does not possess, and you have made some bad mistakes. You’re human. You have to face what your sanctions are for those mistakes, but those mistakes don’t define you as a person,” Magistrate Renee Ferguson told Simpson Friday in court.
Simpson, a well-known high school athlete, spent time with USA Baseball’s 17U National Team Development Program this past summer. He was the state’s lone representative on the 40-man roster and played games at Milwaukee’s Miller Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
The 16-year-old Central High School junior appeared in Vanderburgh County Juvenile Court Friday and was found to be delinquent after he pleaded guilty to charges including possessing a firearm and marijuana, according to court records.
However, the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to allow Simpson to plead guilty to a lesser included misdemeanor charge of criminal recklessness. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of dangerous possession of a firearm and marijuana possession.
Prosecutors then dismissed a felony charge of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number.
Ferguson sentenced Simpson to White’s Residential and Family Services, a youth facility in Wabash, Ind., where he will be evaluated and receive counseling and other related services aimed at his rehabilitation.
Because of the serious nature of his charges, Ferguson ordered Simpson stay in secure detention at a juvenile care center where he has been since his arrest.
Ferguson said she was convinced that Simpson has an opportunity to turn his life around and was better served at a residential facility rather than the Indiana Department of Correction. She said he had a strong support network of family and friends.
Among those supporters was the general manager of the Kansas City Royals who wrote the court a letter pledging the organization’s commitment to providing Simpson with educational and other support if he relocates to Kansas City, Ferguson said.
Ferguson told Simpson she hoped he would learn from his mistakes.
“You can use them and gain strength from them to move forward and be a leader of men and children some day and be an example of how someone overcomes adversity and bad mistakes in life and goes on to be successful,” she said.
However, she said the onus was on Simpson to make those changes.
As of August, Simpson was considered Indiana’s top prospect in the Class of 2019 and ranked 79th overall nationally, according to Perfect Game, which has the largest scouting department in the industry. He’s primarily a center fielder and reaches 89 miles per hour as a right-handed pitcher.
A delinquency petition with the charges was filed after Simpson and another 16-year-old were arrested Jan. 14. A man told Evansville Police Department officers he was in a car when Simpson shot at him from another vehicle, according to court records.
The incident for which he was charged began when two juveniles approached the victim on foot while he was parked, police said. The victim told police he felt the juveniles were about to rob him so he drove away. However, a short time later he said he saw the juveniles get into a vehicle. After the juveniles got into the vehicle, one of them fired at least one shot from a handgun, according to police.
Officers responding to the area stopped the suspected vehicle. During the investigation, the victim was able to identify one of the juveniles as the one who approached him on foot and then fired a shot from inside the car, according to police.
Two loaded handguns, a 9 mm and a .40 caliber, were found in the vehicle, police said, and one of the guns had the serial number scratched off. One of the recovered handguns “had the hammer cocked and ready to fire,” according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in juvenile court.
The victim identified Simpson as the person who initially approached his vehicle and who fired the shot.