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Man flees North Carolina court during statutory rape trial

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — Investigators are searching for a North Carolina man who fled court during a trial on a statutory rape accusation.

The Gaston Gazette reported that Superior Court Judge Linwood Foust issued an order for the arrest of 43-year-old Gary Franklin Simmons after he left the courtroom for a cigarette on Monday and never returned.

Defense attorney Larry Hoyle says that’s the last he saw of Simmons.

The judge instructed the jury to continue deliberating. The newspaper reports that Simmons wasn’t present when he was convicted of first-degree statutory rape on Tuesday.

The newspaper reports Simmons was accused of having sex in 2014 with a 15-year-old girl who was friends with his girlfriend’s daughter. The newspaper said he had been out on bond.

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