Joshua Steven Collins, 42, once lived in Springfield, but he now spends his days in state prison after convictions for domestic assault, tampering with a judicial officer and second-degree harassment.
It’s the tampering and harassment convictions that — since December — have been in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court.
Arguments were made before the high court on Dec. 8. It has not yet ruled.
In 2019, Collins was on supervised probation for domestic assault, not in jail. He had a probation officer — a woman known as “A.G.” in court documents.
It was A.G.’s job to monitor Collins’ dating life and relationship status because of his history of violence against women.
Once in a while she asked his friends if he was seeing anyone. She occasionally took a look at Collins’ Facebook page.
Collins had a problem with alcohol and was required to wear an alcohol monitor as part of his parole.
It was May 12, 2019, when that monitor alerted A.G. that Collins apparently had alcohol in his system, which would be a probation violation.
She called him and said she wanted to speak to him.
Collins apparently didn’t like that. Through Facebook, he learned A.G. had children. At the time, they were 19, 21 and 24. He sent hostile Facebook messages to her. Collins also left a phone message.
Collins told A.G. via messages he was checking on her private life the same way she had been checking on his private life — leaving out the part, of course, that it was her job to do so.
According to court documents, he left the following messages.
“Hey. I hired a P.I. Omg you should see what I found. Decided too [sic] check you out like you check me out. You should call me cause your sons this [sic] selling meth. I got pics. She’s doing blow jobs too. Lol. I have so much too [sic] give Jones.”
He apparently was referring to Circuit Judge David C. Jones, in Greene County.
His phone message covered the same content. But he took the time in his voice message to also call A.G. a “bitch.”
A.G. said Collins’ messages were inaccurate and they made her “nervous, anxious, worried, concerned” and that she had never before experienced conduct like this in her job, which she started in 2018.
A.G. reported all this to her supervisor, who quickly removed her from being Collins’ parole supervisor. Police were called. A trial was held.
Collins was found guilty on both new charges — tampering with a judicial officer and second-degree harassment.
The new convictions meant he had violated his terms of probation. Collins got two years for tampering with a judicial officer (A.G.) and one year for second-degree harassment.
The one-year sentence was to be served during the same period of time as the two-year sentence.
All of this brings us to the case before the Missouri Supreme Court.
Collins’ main lawyer, Christian E. Lehmberg, argues that the state’s law for second-degree harassment is unconstitutional because it is overly broad and infringes on Collins’ First Amendment right to free speech.
In addition, the messages Collins sent to A.G. were communication and not conduct, according to Lehmberg, and in no way did they rise to the level of “fighting words.”
Lehmberg’s second argument before the high court is one of double jeopardy. He contends that the state statute for tampering with a judicial officer encompasses the very same elements of second-degree harassment.
In other words, he argues, the state got away with charging Collins with the same crime twice.
When I find out what happens in this case I’ll let you know.
Either way, Collins will still have a sentence to serve.
This is Pokin Around Column No. 19