Archive for Thursday, May 19, 2005

Collins sentenced, apologizes

May 19, 2005

A former De Soto High School administrator expressed regret and shame Monday in U.S. District Court, where he was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for possession of child pornography.

After describing the case as a "difficult and tragic situation," Judge G. Thomas VanBebber sentenced Charles A. (Tony) Collins to 33 months in prison with two years of probation. The judge waived a fine that, according to sentencing guidelines, could have been up to $250,000.

Collins, 34, was associate principal at De Soto High School from 2000 until he resigned in 2004. He lives in Olathe.

Collins pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to one count of possession of child pornography.

He admitted paying to download from the Internet more than 600 images of child pornography, including pictures of infants and movies of children engaged in sexual activities with adults. He said he possessed images as early as April 2002.

In a plea agreement submitted to the court, Collins, his attorney Robin Fowler and federal prosecuting attorney Kim Berger requested a sentence of 33 months. Sentencing guidelines recommend incarceration of not more than five years.

Fowler said alcohol was a contributing factor to the offense and that Collins would undergo 500 hours of drug and alcohol treatment in prison.

Fowler said Collins had been a "wonderful" educator and administrator who still had the support of many of his students. He added that Collins had no previous criminal history and was remorseful for his actions.

"He understands through his conduct he's lost his profession," Fowler said. "He's had to admit in very public format the mistakes he's made."

VanBebber said he had received numerous letters affirming Collins' character from friends, colleagues and former students.

The judge said he thought the 33-month sentence reflected the seriousness of the offense, provided just punishment and was an adequate deterrent for criminal conduct. Because of the nature of Collins' offense, his supervision conditions would include restrictions regarding computer use and unsupervised contact with minors, VanBebber said.

Collins will be incarcerated once his prison location is decided.

Citing personal reasons, Collins resigned from his position as De Soto High School associate principal in June 2004.

Fowler said Monday that Collins resigned because he knew he would be indicted and wanted to reduce embarrassment for the school. Collins was indicted Nov. 17, 2004.

Before VanBebber announced his sentencing, Collins began reading a statement to the court but was overcome with emotion.

Fowler finished reading the statement, in which Collins said he wanted to publicly confess his sin before God and ask that God use his experiences to help other men avoid the "trap of Internet pornography."

In his statement, Collins apologized to his family and the field of public education. He said he understood how his participation in viewing child pornography indirectly harmed others.

"I want you to know that I do take full responsibility for my decisions and for making these mistakes," the statement said, "and that I am truly ashamed and sorry to be standing before you today in this capacity."

Following the sentencing, Collins apologized to the people of De Soto.

"I'm very sorry for any embarrassment that I've caused the school or community," Collins said. "And I hope that somehow the trials I've had to go through will help other people make better choices."

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