JACKSON — A former Jackson police officer has been resentenced to 20 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting a woman while on duty in 1999.

U.S. District Judge William Barbour Jr.'s ruling came Thursday in the case against Maceo Simmons, according to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper.

The sentence is the third for Simmons in the same case since his 2005 conviction. Previous sentences were thrown out on appeal, based on how much prison time Simmons should have received under federal guidelines and the judge's discretion to deviate from them.

Simmons initially was sentenced to 20 years and later resentenced to life in prison.

Barbour's sentence was announced to Simmons' attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Kathy Nester, and U.S. Department of Justice attorneys Paige Fitzgerald and Karima Maloney, in a telephone conference call.

"We are grateful for and respect the judge's ruling," Nester said Friday. "While, of course, we would have liked it to be lower, we believe the judge clearly and correctly laid out all the reasons why a life sentence is inappropriate in this case."

Department of Justice spokesman Alejandro Miyar said that no decision had been made on whether to appeal Barbour's latest sentencing decision. Miyar said the ruling is under review.

The federal government said Simmons, 53, deserved more than the 20-year sentence he received when Barbour first sentenced him in 2005.

Barbour had said in 2005 that he believed 20 years for a man Simmons' age was sufficient. Simmons was 48 at the time.

Prosecutors argued the sentence was too lenient and that age couldn't be a reason to deviate from federal sentencing guidelines.

In November 2006, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction but threw out the 20-year sentence, and Barbour resentenced Simmons to life in August 2008.

Simmons' attorneys then appealed.

In the meantime, two U.S. Supreme Court decisions gave federal judges more latitude in deciding what sentences to impose.

The 5th Circuit threw out the life sentence given to Simmons and left it up to the judge's discretion whether to again give a life sentence or to impose a lesser sentence.

Nester said Simmons has been a model prisoner at the Texas federal prison where he is serving his time, and also counsels other inmates.

The then-19-year-old victim said that after a traffic stop on Sept. 19, 1999, Simmons took her in his patrol car to a remote spot and assaulted her while a second officer acted as a lookout.

The second officer, Thomas Catchings, was granted immunity and testified against Simmons in the federal trial. Catchings, a motorcycle officer, was shot to death on March 17, 2005, while trying to stop a carjacking suspect.

The Associated Press

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