A Man Among Boys

He claims to not have had any sexual contact with a minor for 10 years before he met Sam. Some of that was not his choice. "I was like a magnet when I was young," he says. "Where I was, kids followed." When he got older, they stopped following.

Then the Internet came along.

'You stroke kids online.'

From a creaky computer in his home on Windermere, Simmons went out into cyberspace. He says he spoke to just as many adults online as he did children. He would attempt to meet men on the Long Island Men's Forum, he says, but stopped "because after five minutes, it was 'Do you want to go out?' 'Hey, can't I get to know you first?' "

He became a regular in what he says was a "boys" chat room on AOL. There he played the game, talking to kids, developing relationships, but, he says, never meeting anyone in the flesh.

"A lot of kids online would have a crush on me," he confides. "I would let them have their crush. I would say, 'I love you.' But I would try to find someone for them closer to their own age."

He apparently knew the teen banter.

"You stroke kids online," he says. "You always tell them they're smart, they're cute. One time, I was with a kid and I said he was the cutest kid on this side of the Mississippi. And [another kid] went, 'How dare you!? You told me I was the cutest.' "

One day in the summer of '96, he walked across a cyber room and struck up a conversation with a 14-year-old from New Jersey.

According to later accounts, Sam Manzie was not very popular at his all-boys Catholic school. Some reports say the kids called him "Manzie the Pansy." He was awkward and tall for his age—over six feet tall—but weighed only 143 pounds. He didn't like to play outside. He liked to play on his computer.

Simmons describes a boy who would be called the perfect victim by experts on child predators. "He was insecure," Simmons recalls. "He needed to be reinforced constantly. He was always asking, 'Why don't you like me?" So most of the adults spent a lot of time stroking him. You had to tell him he was cute. But you didn't need to tell him he's smart. That he knew."

It was Sam who took the next step, says Simmons. He gave the older man his phone number. Simmons says they talked about life and dreams and hopes.

Then, Simmons claims, Sam again was the one who took the next step: He asked to meet Simmons in person.

Simmons claims he objected repeatedly, but finally gave in.

"Like a fool," he says, "I said yes. This wasn't for the purpose of having sex."

Simmons took the two-hour trip from Holbrook. He met Sam at the Freehold Raceway Mall—the boy had been dropped off by his unwitting father. Simmons says they walked around the stores, got something to eat, then went to see the movie Phenomenon. Inside the theater, Simmons fondled the boy for the first time. Sam reciprocated.

Simmons' braggadocio fades quickly as he recounts this episode. He's reluctant to discuss details that he didn't later confess to. As always, though, and as pedophiles often do, he puts the boy in the role of aggressor.

After the movie, they went behind the theater and they fondled each other some more. Then Sam's beeper went off. It was his parents, wondering where he was. He ignored the message, Simmons claims, and asked the man to take him to his house on Long Island.

"Ever since he was 12 and a half, he wanted to go to bed with an older man," says Simmons. "Well, I was the older man. I was the fantasy. I was the stupid one who let him talk me into it."

Simmons drove Sam to Holbrook, where he performed oral sex on the boy.

In a matter-of-fact way, Simmons describes the aftermath: "I'm not an easy person to make smile. I'm not a cuddler. I like my own space. He just cuddled up in my arms, and I fell asleep. I never fell asleep in someone's arms before."

Simmons drove the boy back to New Jersey.

The law says Simmons and Manzie met three more times, once at a New Jersey motel, where they contend that Simmons gave Sam the drug ketamine, or Special K, to seduce Sam. Although he doesn't deny drugs were used, Simmons says no drugs were needed for seduction. "Do you know about Special K? It gets you zoned," he says. "You couldn't have sex on Special K if you tried."

According to Simmons, Sam was a jealous lover. He would badmouth other kids online to try to get more of the man's attention.

And then, says Simmons, there were the fantasies. Manzie, whose appeal is in process, wouldn't agree to an interview, so Simmons is the only source for what follows: an account of Sam's violent fantasies that hasn't previously surfaced.

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