A federal magistrate judge Friday appointed the public defender’s office to represent a frequent Fox News commentator who prosecutors say lied about a 27-year career with the CIA. The judge ordered Wayne S. Simmons jailed until another hearing next week.
After a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson ordered that the 62-year-old Annapolis resident remain in custody until his court appearance Tuesday so that his lawyer can get up to speed on the case.
Simmons, wearing the same jeans and button-down shirt he wore at a hearing a day earlier, said little in court except to confirm that he could not afford legal representation. On Thursday, he had said he was already represented by an attorney, but on Friday, he clarified that the lawyer had only represented him in the past.
“That is correct, sir, and I apologize for the misunderstanding,” Simmons told Anderson.
Simmons was arrested Thursday and charged with making false statements, major fraud against the United States and wire fraud. By prosecutors’ account, Simmons falsely claimed on government documents that he was a CIA veteran to get jobs at two different government contractors, one of which deployed him overseas as an adviser to senior U.S. military personnel. He was also charged in a scheme in which he allegedly persuaded someone to give him $125,000 for a real estate investment and then used the money on personal expenses.
Simmons’s family members declined to comment after the hearing.
Although he was hardly a household name, Simmons was a frequent, unpaid commentator about terrorism issues on Fox News, and he mingled easily with other military and media types, said friends and neighbors. He co-authored a fictional spy thriller called “The Natanz Directive” — which one neighbor said Simmons told him was drawn from his actual, clandestine work.
Some who know Simmons said they doubt the allegations against him — although after his arrest Thursday, at least one group with which he was associated moved to distance itself from him.
Roger Aronoff, editor of the watchdog group Accuracy in Media and a member of the affiliated Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, said the CCB had removed Simmons’s name from its members list, pending the outcome of the legal proceedings. He said CCB members were “stunned and saddened” to hear the news of Simmons’s arrest.
“As with everyone charged with a crime or crimes in this country, he is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “We wish him the best.”
Another CCB member, retired Gen. Paul Vallely, said Simmons had stepped down a year or two ago amid the investigation.
On his Web site, Simmons said that he was recruited from the Navy to the CIA in 1973 and worked as part of an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Group.” He said that he “spearheaded Deep Cover Intel Ops against some of the world’s most dangerous Drug Cartels and arms smugglers from Central and South America and the Middle East” and that he served as a “consultant to the Bush White House to assist in the construction of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.”
Prosecutors did not individually dispute those claims, although they said that his 27-year career in the CIA was a lie.
A prosecutor also noted in court Thursday that Simmons had a previous conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Online court records show that in 1983, he sold a pistol to a firearms and sporting goods store in Silver Spring 2