Judge denies probation revocation request on Cecil Collins

Tears flowed Thursday from Cecil "The Diesel" Collins and members of his family when a judge rejected a prosecution request that he revoke the former LSU, McNeese State and Miami Dolphins running back's probation and send him back to prison for up to five years.
"I'm feeling excellent. That just made my day," a smiling James Collins, who is Cecil Collins' older brother, said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse in downtown Baton Rouge.
"It's been a long haul for Cecil. I think this is the first time he sees light at the end of the tunnel," added Cecil Collins' attorney, Rodney Baum.
State District Judge Mike Caldwell stayed his ruling until the resolution of an appeal to be filed by East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Sue Bernie. The judge, however, set a $25,000 bond on Collins with the caveat that he remain in Louisiana while the matter is on appeal. For the past 2 1/2 months, Collins has been held without bond at Parish Prison.
James Collins, who lives in Leesville, where Cecil Collins won Louisiana's inaugural Mr. Football award in 1995 as a Leesville High School senior, said he hopes his younger brother can bond out of prison by next week and join him in Leesville.
Caldwell scheduled another hearing July 18 to give Collins' attorney, Rodney Baum, an opportunity to present evidence in hopes of persuading the judge to let Collins return to Florida with his wife and children while the appeal is pending.
He got married more than six years ago, while imprisoned.
Collins, 36, was released May 1 from a Florida prison and extradited to Louisiana after spending 13 1/2 years behind bars for committing a burglary in December 1999 in Miami while he was on probation in Louisiana.
The probation stemmed from his April 1999 guilty plea in front of Caldwell to two felony charges of unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling and two misdemeanor charges of simple battery.
In the Baton Rouge case, Caldwell gave Collins a suspended five-year prison term and put him on probation for four years.
Following Collins' arrest in Florida, Louisiana authorities immediately issued a warrant for his arrest for violating his probation.
Caldwell noted Thursday that Collins filed a motion in early 2008 in the 19th JDC, offering to plead guilty to violating his probation in exchange for a concurrent 18-month sentence. State District Judge Todd Hernandez denied the motion without a hearing.
Collins filed another motion in the fall of 2010, asking to be allowed to plead guilty in absentia to the maximum sentence.
State District Judge Don Johnson likewise denied that motion without a hearing, Caldwell said.
"I was trying to get everything to run concurrent with Florida," Collins testified Thursday. "I was trying to get it taken care of as quickly as possible."
Caldwell said it is his opinion that Collins essentially requested a speedy trial in 2010, but Johnson denied the request.
Caldwell found that Collins' due process rights, specifically his right to a speedy trial, were denied through no fault of the District Attorney's Office or the Office of Probation and Parole.
The judge also suggested Collins may have gotten "lucky" with the way the 2010 motion was handled in the 19th JDC.
"I don't believe the law required us to bring him back (to Louisiana) prior to the completion of his sentence (in Florida)," Bernie told reporters afterward.
"I really believe in my opinion that 13 1/2 years is enough," James Collins said.
Baum argued to Caldwell that Collins has been "significantly punished."
Collins' Baton Rouge charges stemmed from two separate incidents in June and July 1998 when Collins forced his way into apartments of women who lived in the same Nicholson Drive complex as he did. He was accused of fondling the women.
In the Miami case, Collins was convicted in March 2001 of sneaking into his neighbors' apartment.