Fifteen years in prison is the penalty William “Billy” Bates Colvin received Tuesday for stealing large quantities of cocaine and five guns from an evidence vault inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse where he worked and his mother was a sitting judge.
Colvin’s prison time must be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, but retired Judge Marion Edwards gave the 33-year-old Colvin credit for the nearly three years he has spent behind bars since his high-profile December 2012 arrest.
Colvin’s mother, Kay Bates, retired last December after serving as a state district judge since her election in 1996.
Bates, who was in the courtroom Tuesday, said afterward she’s glad the case is over but declined further comment.
Colvin’s attorney, Frank Holthaus, said his client regrets the toll that his legal problems took on his mother.
“His biggest remorse is that he embarrassed his mother. He feel like he cost her her seat,” Holthaus said. “That is his greatest punishment.”
When Bates announced in August 2014 that she would not seek re-election, she cited her husband’s heart problems but also acknowledged that her son’s situation was difficult.
Colvin, according to court records, admitted distributing the stolen cocaine for a profit of some $200,000 and spending the money on, among other things, a vehicle and jewelry.
Holthaus noted that Colvin’s time behind bars has allowed him to remain sober.
In all, six people were arrested in the case involving stolen cocaine — more than 48 pounds — and guns from an East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office evidence vault inside the downtown courthouse.
Two of those defendants — Deroy Joseph, 42, and Larry Collins, 28, both of Baton Rouge — also were sentenced Tuesday for their roles. Joseph was handed a 10-year prison term, and Collins was given a term of more than 13 years.
Both men pleaded guilty last month to possession of between 200 and 400 grams of cocaine — drugs that Colvin stole from the vault. Collins’ sentence was stiffer than Joseph’s because he also pleaded guilty to a heroin possession charge that stemmed from an unrelated October arrest.
Colvin’s former girlfriend, Debra Vicknair Bell, 57, of Maurepas, was given a suspended prison sentence last month and put on probation for seven years for helping Colvin take cocaine out of the courthouse. She pleaded guilty in June to malfeasance in office and possession of cocaine.
Asked Tuesday how Bell was able to avoid prison time, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said she cooperated at many levels.
At the time of the thefts, which prosecutors said occurred between September 2012 and December 2012, Colvin worked in the criminal records division of the Clerk of Court’s Office while Bell worked in the civil records division. Both were fired after their arrests.
Colvin pleaded guilty last month to malfeasance, obstruction of justice and possession of more than 400 grams of cocaine. Edwards sentenced him to 15 years in prison on the drug charge and five years each on the other charges, but he ordered the smaller terms to run concurrent with the 15-year term.
Bell’s son, Colt Weston Bell, 31, of Baker, and Terrance Sloan Ramirez, 31, of Baton Rouge, were sentenced in February to 12 years and nine years in prison, respectively, for plotting to extort Colvin to steal even more cocaine from the courthouse.
Prosecutors have said the cocaine and guns had been seized from drug dealers and killers, but none of those cases were compromised.