Inside Superior Court Judge Epstein’s Courtroom
Monday, July 13 was the trial before a judge for Phelps Collins III for the misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty brought against him.
On or about January 15, 2009, within the District of Columbia, Phelps Collins tortured, tormented, cruelly beat, cruelly chained, mutilated and caused and procured to be so tortured, tormented, cruelly beaten, cruelly chained, mutilated an animal, that is, two adult male cats. (Cruelty to Animals, in violation of 22 D.C. Code Section 1001 (2001 Ed.)
Curiosity proved to be the driving force, with a desire to see first hand, Michael Price’s accomplice in the robbery of 1509 Swann Street on October 30, 2006.
Unlike jury trials, where the courtroom is tightly managed and activities and conversations in the gallery are frowned upon, Monday morning’s hearings before Judge Anthony Epstein were reminiscent of the television show Night Court.
Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and defendants alike were walking in and out of the courtroom, conferencing with each other, looking for defendants and witnesses. Half a dozen cases were on the docket for 9:30AM.
Several cases were dismissed, prosecutors citing a lack of evidence. One defendant brought in from the lock-up in his orange coveralls (a result of not appearing in court for his trial) requested and was granted a release pending a mental health evaluation.
When case number 2009 CMD 001684 C United States Vs. COLLINS, III, PHELPS was called, Collins was not present. His attorney stated that he was running late and would be there in a few moments. Collins had relayed a message through pretrial or mental health services, and was on his way.
The Judge, with a full docket, stayed the trial until his arrival. Shortly thereafter, Collins arrived. With so many cases on his plate, and with the disclosure that there would be at least 4 witnesses for the Government, the Judge pushed the trial to 11AM.
Unlike the other defendants, many with dreadlocks and wearing baggy jeans, t-shirts or even tank-tops, Phelps Collins appeared well-groomed, although attired more for a night at a club rather than a court room. Hair and beard were tightly cropped, and his blue striped casual shirt was freshly pressed and well- coordinated with a black vest adorned with silver piping and embroidered designer jeans.
For someone with at least 11 court appearances since 1998 – 3 felony charges, 2 small claims hearings, 3 tenant/landlord disputes, 2 misdemeanor charges, and one traffic violation, it was surprising Collins did not come dressed for success to present a positive image before the Judge. Certainly he has established a name around Superior Court.
Discernible witnesses for the Government included 3 middle aged women, and a middle aged man (presumably Collins’ roommate that called the police on Collins’ alleged animal cruelty).
In the end, the Government prevailed, finding Collins guilty as charged. Sentencing is scheduled for July 29, before Judge Epstein in Room 210.
– posted by Michael