NELSON COUNTY, Ky. (Court TV) — The judge presiding over the murder trial of a man accused of killing his girlfriend, whose body has never been found, has denied a request by the defense to recuse himself from the case.
Brooks Houck was arrested in September on charges of murder and tampering with evidence in the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, who he was dating at the time. Rogers was last seen on July 3, 2015. Houck has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Wednesday, Nelson Circuit Court Judge Charles Simms denied a request from Houck’s defense to recuse himself. Houck’s attorneys had initially filed their motion with the Kentucky Supreme Court and asked the court to remove Simms because of previous statements he had made in a 2017 written order for an unrelated case. The Kentucky Supreme Court declined to rule on the motion, saying that Simms should be given the opportunity to review the motion and either grant or deny it.
The comments in question were made by Simms during a custody hearing in 2017 that involved a woman Brooks had been seeing, named Crystal Maupin. In his decision in the case, entered on May 25, 2017 — more than six years before Houck was charged with Rogers’ murder and two years after her disappearance — Simms wrote: “…this Court is simply astonished that (Maupin) would want a relationship with a man [Brooks Houck] who is the prime suspect in the disappearance and presumed death of his previous girlfriend.”
In his response, Simms noted that “Brooks completely ignores that this judge’s ultimate decision was completely favorable to him. … Had this judge been prejudiced and biased against Brooks, it is simply unimaginable that Brooks would have prevailed on every issue related to him.”
Simms also addressed his use of the word “astonished” in his ruling, saying “There was alarming evidence that Maupin’s relationship with Brooks could negatively impact the child.”
“Brooks also completely ignores the context of this one sentence. The preceding sentence stated that “[Maupin] is simply one fight away from being homeless and destitute” while the following sentence stated “[i]f Brooks is ever charged with crimes related to [Rogers’] disappearance and death, [Maupin] hshould think about the possible ramifications for [her child] and herself.”
In his response, Simms also addressed his decision to keep Brook Houck’s bond at $10 million over his defense’s objections.
“Brooks complains that this judge has fixed his bond five times higher than any other defendant. However, Brooks fails to mention his wealth and his access to substantial financial resouces.”
Simms said that he calculated Brooks’ business interests to be worth $8.5 million, making him “at least seventeen times” wealthier than any other defendant. He also noted other high-profile cases where bond was higher than usual: Robert Durst, Sam Bankman-Fried and Michael Milken.
The judge also noted in reference to an allegation that his decision to keep bond at $10 million was related to “public clamor and criticism,” saying he has no intention of running for re-election.
On Nov. 28, the Kentucky Supreme Court denied a motion by Houck to disqualify Judge Simms.