Suspect expected to plead guilty

Ronald Mark Simmons could face decades in prison if he pleads to guilty to all four charges against him.

The man accused of being the Queen Street Grocery rapist is expected to plead guilty Friday, and potentially faces a lengthy term behind bars.

The 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office said suspect Ronald Mark Simmons, 19, is expected to plead to all four charges he faces — criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, armed robbery and possession of a weapon during a crime of violence.

The maximum penalty for all the crimes would run as much as 95 years, though maximum sentences are seldom imposed. Simmons faces a mandatory 10 years just for an armed robbery conviction, his defense lawyer said.

If the plea does not go forward, defense lawyer Rodney Davis said the case probably would be called for trial later this summer.

Simmons is accused of attacking the register clerk at the popular Charleston convenience store in January 2008. According to a police report, a woman who was a cashier at the store was attacked around 9:30 a.m.

When her back was turned, a man came behind the counter and put a box cutter to her neck, the report said. The man then forced her into the restroom and sexually assaulted her.

Surveillance video from the incident was broadcast on TV and on, helping lead to Simmons' arrest. He had no prior convictions in South Carolina, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.

After the assault, the man forced the cashier back to the front of the store and demanded money from the register, the report said. It said he also took a box of cigars and the woman's cell phone and driver's license.

The plea is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Charleston County Judicial Center, in front of Circuit Judge Roger Young.