“Mistaken belief” acquits Collins

Rich Collins' conviction for trespassing at Shopper's World during his unsuccessful run for Richmond last year has been overturned. Albemarle Circuit Judge Paul Peatross ruled October 10 that Collins' sincere, though mistaken belief that he was allowed to exercise his First Amendment rights and pass out campaign literature at the privately owned Shopper's World, even after he was repeatedly asked to leave on May 7, 2005, was enough to "negate criminal intent for the purposes of a conviction after his arrest and detention," opined Peatross.

Collins was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing nearly a year ago on October 24, 2005, in general district court. Earlier this year, Peatross rejected Collins' civil suit against Shopper's World June 14, 2006, and that case is under appeal.

"At the end of the [criminal] case, I thought he was going to rule that day in my favor," says Collins. "What was persuasive was the video. My version was confirmed by the video."

(The video was not shown in Collins' first trial, and his defense attorney, Steve Rosenfield, filed a complaint with the Albemarle police accusing them of not turning over the tape. When Chief John Miller pointed out that the existence of the videotape was noted on the police report and overlooked both by Rosenfield and the commonwealth, Rosenfield issued a written apology.)

"The judge made the decision he thought correct and we were disappointed he didn't decide it for us on the legal issue," says Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Rick Moore. One of the problems, believes Moore, is that there are no other similar Virginia cases.

Though Collins is acquitted, the court warns him not to try distributing leaflets on private property until the Supreme Court rules otherwise. The good-faith defense won't work again.

7 comments

Rich Collins is so full of sh*t, it comes out his mouth. He trespassed because he wanted publicity for his campaign and then tries to make it into a First Amendment issue. What a clown.

I worked on Rich's campaign and I assure you there was no such plan. He was (and is) entirely convinced that he was completely within his rights to be campaigning there. If he'd intended to get attention, being arrested for criminal trespassing would be about the worst possible method of doing so. I guess he could have exposed himself to a group of Girl Scouts. That'd be worse.

Unless I, too, am "so full of sh*t it comes out of [my] mouth." What a delightfully...earthy turn of phrase.

I was raised to understand that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. I guess Judge Peatross and Mr. Collins missed that day in civics class. What a joke.

that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.

Ignorance has always been important when intent is central to an offense.
The difference between manslaughter and 1st degree murder is what the intent of the murderer was.
Therefore if criminal trepass involves intent and there was no intent proven then Collins is not guilt. That is not the same as innocent. This is not a victory for free speech at all.

Having heard Rich speak on many many occasions, I completely believe he viewed it as a public space. In my mind, this is an intersection of his personal/professional interests and his politcal activities.

I see it more as him standing his ground on principle - and allowing himself to be used to create publicity for the issue, far and above over any benefit it would bestow on his campaign.

It is an important, interesting, germane issue in the land of urban planning.

Waldo, here is another delightlfuly earthy statement used on the street:

"It is what it is"

No matter what Rich Collins or his minions say, the tape does not lie. Rich Collins said
"I need the publicity for my campaign" with regards to being arrested for trespassing.

The cops spent an hour pleading with Collins, but he wouldn't budge. Good for him,but never
forget that Collins wanted publicity for his campaign, that was the driving force behind his
arrest, not a First Amendment issue. No matter what the spin put out by the Hook and others,
Collins wanted the publicity FOR HIS CAMPAIGN, by his ownvery words.

"It is what it is" and what Rich Collins is/has never done is deny what he said "I need the publicity
for my campaign". Because it (and he) was caught on tape. Collin's only principle was getting more
and free publicity. The Hook and Waldo have given it to him. Too bad Collins is such a poor candidate
that he didn't even come close to winning the nomination.

"It is what it is"

Please, enough spinning, disassembling, and outright lieing.

Earthy turns of phrase or not (thanks for that!) having seen how Mr. Collins operates I believe he was sincere in believing he was in the right. Whatever he said about "publicity" for his campaign certainly came out of his mouth: haven't you heard a few things come out of his mouth before? It's RICH COLLINS! The man talks-- Good, bad and ugly.

It is what it is is right!

Pete