Former LSU and NFL running back Cecil “The Diesel” Collins, who became something of a political football during a recent Baton Rouge judicial race, is now asking the judge handling his case to put an early end to his court-ordered probation.
The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office opposes Collins’ request, but state District Judge Mike Caldwell, who won re-election in the Nov. 4 election, has indicated his willingness to give the request serious consideration in late May.
During his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Caldwell this fall, trial lawyer Randy Piedrahita took issue with the judge for not sending Collins back to prison earlier this year for violating his four-year probation in a Baton Rouge case in which Collins was accused of forcing his way into the Nicholson Drive apartments of two women in 1998 and fondling them. Caldwell gave Collins a suspended five-year prison term in that case, in addition to the four years of probation.
While on probation, Collins sneaked into his neighbors’ apartment in Miami in 1999 and was convicted of burglary. He served more than 13 years in a Florida prison and was released last year and sent back to Louisiana to consider a possible probation violation in Baton Rouge.
East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors in 2013 pushed to have Collins sent back to jail, but Caldwell, in March, instead put him on probation for an extra three years. The judge explained during the campaign that returning Collins to prison “would just be exacting a pound of flesh at the expense of taxpayers” who pay for incarceration.
Collins and his attorney, Rodney Baum, appeared in Caldwell’s courtroom Monday, and Baum asked the judge to consider either terminating the probation early or converting it to unsupervised probation. Supervised probation is costing Collins $103 a month.
Baum explained that Collins, who married while in prison, is an expectant father who is working and going to school in Florida to become a certified electrician. Collins, he argued, has transitioned from prison life to adapting to a normal life.
“He has obviously paid a substantial penalty,” Baum told the judge. “Mr. Collins has demonstrated he is in fact rehabilitated.”
Caldwell acknowledged in court that he has been thinking along the same lines as Baum.
“I don’t know if now is the appropriate time,” the judge said of giving consideration to Collins’ probation termination request. “Maybe another year. Maybe six months.”
Caldwell said he will review Collins’ probation May 26 and decide then on a course of action.
Delgado lays claim to ‘Better Together’ slogan
When freshman Councilman John Delgado ran for Metro Council in 2012, he ran under the slogan “Better Together.”
It was a seemingly prescient choice for a slogan, considering that the effort to create the city of St. George was “only a twinkle in Norman Browning’s eye,” as Delgado puts it.
Delgado is already organizing for his 2016 push, which could either be for a council re-election or for mayor-president. And he’s returning to his 2012 slogan, which has adopted a new meaning. He’s got a website and a hired media consultant who is already sending out press releases to news reporters.
In the past year, a nonprofit group opposing the city of St. George adopted the name “Better Together.” It also sometimes goes by “Residents Against the Breakaway.”
Make no mistake, Delgado says. The two are not affiliated. And, Delgado notes, he had the name first. He said he chose the slogan in 2012, referring to the need to break down district, racial, economic and geographical barriers.
However, he doesn’t mind being associated with an anti-St. George group.
“It’s pretty clear that I support keeping the parish united,” Delgado said. “I’ve been an outspoken critic of the division tactics of St. George.”
Roper, council legal fight could bring conflict
A few conflicts of interest tumbled out when former East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper recently took to court the Metro Council members who once fired her.
Roper sued the city-parish and five Metro Council members for not coughing up documents she asked for through a public records request in August. Murphy Foster, who represented the city and council members in court, argued that they have been turning over documents to Roper, who has not taken the time to look at them.
The personal relationships among the parties are extensive.
Judge Timothy Kelley acknowledged that he and Mary Roper are longtime acquaintances. He also disclosed that their children attend school together. Neither Foster nor Roper’s legal counsel Wade Shows said he had a problem with Kelley and Roper’s relationship.
Kelley also called the lawyers arguing both sides of the case friends of his and invited them to join a swearing-in photo with his family that he squeezed in between testimonies.
Roper now works with Wade Shows, who represented her in court. Shows was Roper’s predecessor as parish attorney.
When Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle testified, she said she previously emailed Roper and said she planned to obtain a lawyer to stop Roper’s repeated requests of her, which Marcelle deemed possible harassment. At the time, Roper was parish attorney and therefore Marcelle’s lawyer, which is why Marcelle said she planned to hire a different attorney.
Advocate staff reporters Joe Gyan, Rebekah Allen and Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.