Homeless man accused of raping woman by Chatt. River pleads not guilty

Updated: Feb. 13, 2017 at 9:12 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A homeless man who allegedly raped a woman near the Chattahoochee River was in court on Monday.

Joseph Lee Sims, 55, pleaded not guilty to rape, sodomy, reckless conduct with HIV, and giving false information to police.

Columbus Police responded to this incident at the Homeless Resource Network where it was reported.

The victim identified Sims as the man who she claims restrained and raped her earlier that day. She couldn't remember exactly where this all took place but tells police it was "near the river."

Sims was taken in to custody and claims to police that he did not rape the woman.

We spoke with the Homeless Resource Network Director to see what the vetting process is for the homeless who seek help at her organization.

"A background check is going to consider the criminal history but the warrant check is just to make sure a shelter is not harboring fugitives so it only makes sense so there's no reason for police to come or sheriff to come to disturb all the many people there," says Elizabeth Dillard.

This isn't the first-time Sims has been in this situation. Jail records show that Sims was arrested in 1996 for HIV reckless conduct.

Dillard said that being homeless is especially hard for women

"For women I think it's especially hard being homeless," Dillard said. "Many of the people we see hear have had intense trauma throughout their life so sometimes it's happened when they were a child and continues through their life, sometimes it's a new experience but it's a rare person that walks through our door that hasn't experienced some rare trauma and the circumstances of not feeling safe just escalate."

Sims is being held at the Muscogee County Jail without bond.

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