JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A prostitute who torched a civic leader's home because she was angry that newcomers to the neighborhood were hurting her business was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Dusty Simmons (search), 45, had never been to prison despite 83 prior convictions for prostitution, drugs, robbery and bail jumping. The judge sentenced her on the arson conviction as a habitual felon, noting Simmons had lived outside the law most of her life.
"She has become a Jacksonville criminal institution," said prosecutor Stephen Siegel, who asked for a life sentence.
Prosecutors said Simmons set the fire because new residents to the Springfield neighborhood were hurting the street prostitution (search) and drug trades. The home's resident was inside at the time of the 2003 fire.
Her defense attorney said Simmons would appeal. Friends and relatives asked for leniency, saying that since being released on bail, Simmons had been drug-free and earned an honest living on her uncle's shrimp boat.
"These last months she's been a real lady and I'd recommend just as much mercy as you can give her," said her cousin, Lester Hodges.
Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council (search) President Louise DeSpain said she could have been killed.
"I'm a victim who could possibly not be here today because Dusty set my house on fire with me in it," DeSpain said.