The final chapter in U.S. vs. Collins was written by Judge Anthony Epstein in DC Superior Court Wednesday afternoon. Phelps Collins III, found guilty of animal cruelty charges in a bench trial on July 13th was sentenced.
On the 13th Collins was late for his hearing but yesterday it was his attorney David Stringer who was a bit tardy. Epstein, balancing another case, the assault of a police officer, managed to squeeze in Collins’ sentencing after finally getting Collins and Stringer together in Room 210.
Gardner spoke of the persistent effects on the cats and asked for restitution to the Washington Humane Society, the rescue agency. Fatty Cat and Kitty lost their tails, critical feline appendages, and still suffer some lingering side-effects from the surgery. Adopted by a couple, the cats remain together.
Gardner said they continued to show “peculiar behavior;” shaking and cowering at raised voices. Stringer rose again to object saying this was nothing but hearsay from the new owners. Sustained.
The veterinary services ran $2,770. Anyone who’s had a pet treated at Friendship Animal Hospital would say that was reasonable. FAH is where DC’s ‘pet set,’ from Dick Cheney to Sy Hersh take their animal companions. In discussing restitution for the vet bills, Stringer pushed back. Admitting he’s not a cat person and later saying he may sound callous, Stringer seemed to suggest that since FAH also offered the low cost option of euthanasia, his client shouldn’t have to pay. Judge Epstein agreed; Stringer was being callous.
The prosecutor said “torture” took place over a number of months, and the cats “were abused repeatedly and severely.” He claimed Collins was less than truthful on the stand and that he “misrepresented the (cats’) injuries.” He went heavy and asked for a 100 days, cut down to 40, two years probation, additional mental health treatment, specifically anger management, and finally a court order to stay away from pets.
Stringer considered that an “aggressive request” and asked Epstein to go light. Collins was “humiliated and very troubled by the case,” he was, “deeply remorseful and embarrassed… that it won’t ever happen again.” At that point Phelps’ cell phone started ringing. Embarrassment seems to plague this defendant.
Collins declined Epstein’s offer to make a statement, “I’m overwhelmed with everything and don’t know what to say.”
Epstein noted Collins’ full compliance with the conditions of pre- and post-trial release and congratulated him on his progress, his desire to return to school and pursue a career in the fashion industry.
Epstein decided that probation and restitution were probably better than imprisonment. Ninety days suspended, two years probation, the first supervised and restitution for vet costs. Stringer said the $2,770 would be hard to scare up. Epstein ruled that the probation officer is to work out the repayment schedule, saying, “you can’t pay what you don’t have.”
Collins will also kick in $50 to the DC Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund.
Done and done. Collins and his attorney left the courtroom and Epstein turned back to the assault case. Well, not so fast.
The prosecutor reminded Epstein he didn’t rule on the pet restraining order against Collins. Re-entering Room 210, the defendant and counsel appeared sheepish when Epstein ruled that a condition of Collins’ probation was to steer clear of pets. He can visit people who own pets but cannot have one of his own.
This being Washington, and Stringer willing to argue every point, queried the judge on the definition of a pet. “Even fish?” he asked.
Clearly done with this case, the remarkably patient Judge Epstein said it was up to the parole officer to figure that one out, too.
– posted by Craig and Michael