LIMA — Calling his celebrity both a blessing and a curse, an Allen County judge on Tuesday sentenced Greg Simpson to probation, community service and 30 days in jail for providing falsified drivers’ education certificates to a handful of Lima students.
A former basketball star at Lima Senior and a two-time winner of Ohio’s Mr. Basketball award, Simpson pleaded guilty Feb. 13 to a third-degree charge of tampering with a record. A second tampering charge was dismissed as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Allen County Common Pleas Judge Terri Kohlrieser sentenced Simpson to four years on probation and 80 hours of community service. She ordered him to report to jail Saturday morning to begin serving his 30-day sentence.
Simpson addressed the court briefly, apologizing for the “poor judgment” he exercised.
“I know what I did was wrong,” he told the judge. “I’m asking you to be allowed to help the community, to use my experiences — and my poor choices — to be a voice for my community.”
Prosecutors had asked for prison time for Simpson. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Randall Basinger said the actions taken by Simpson to sell falsified driving certificates while employed as Lima West Middle School involved “several juveniles,” including four who ended up in juvenile court.
“This defendant, in supplying false certificates, put those juveniles and others at risk by skipping over some of their driver safety training,” Basinger said. “And during the course of the investigation he was not forthright and continued to deny selling false drivers’ license certificates to others.
“This is an individual who was looked up to in the community, and he took advantage of these juveniles. Lima City Schools gave him another opportunity to be employed, and he misused and abused that, too,” the assistant prosecutor said.
Defense Attorney Bill Kluge said sending Simpson to prison “will not do Greg or the community any good” and said a term of probation would allow the one-time basketball star to counsel the youth of Lima.
“We need people who have been there to tell our kids, ‘Don’t do this,’” Kluge said. “Maybe, just maybe, he can be helpful in helping this community find its way back to where it wants to be.”
Simpson’s most recent arrest is not his only run-in with authorities over the years. He was kicked off the university basketball teams at both West Virginia and Ohio State for run-ins with the law. A hit-and-run accident got him excused from the team in the Mountaineer State, and gun charges dogged him at OSU.
Simpson was arrested in 2007 in Logan County for drug trafficking, driving under suspension, speeding and failing to notify an officer he was carrying a concealed weapon. The drug and weapon charges were dismissed.
Simpson served time in jail for domestic abuse after an incident at Cedar Point in September 1996. Prior to going to jail, he skipped sentencing hearings three times.