It was, in fact, harassment.
That’s what the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously decided today (May 17) in a case involving a Springfield man who wanted the court to view his verbal and written attacks on his probation and parole officer as, instead, free speech.
I wrote about this in a March 6 Pokin Around column.
Joshua Steven Collins, 42, once lived in Springfield, but 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 Dec. 8 — had been in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court.
Collins’ lawyer had argued that, first, the harassment statute was too broad and, second, the state statute for tampering with a judicial officer encompasses the very same elements of second-degree harassment.
In other words, his attorney argued, the state got away with charging Collins with the same crime twice, which would be double jeopardy.
The justices rejected both arguments.
A summary of the high court’s ruling states:
“The Supreme Court of Missouri affirms the judgment. The statutory offense of second-degree harassment is not overbroad; therefore, there was sufficient evidence to support the man’s harassment conviction.
“Furthermore, sentencing the man for both tampering with a judicial officer and second-degree harassment did not violate his right to be free from double jeopardy because it is possible to commit tampering with a judicial official without also committing second-degree harassment.”
Why was this case before the supreme court?
In 2019, Collins was on supervised probation for domestic assault, not in jail. He had a probation and parole 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.
It was May 12, 2019, when that monitor alerted A.G. that Collins apparently had alcohol in his system, which would be a 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 general theme. 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’ supervisor. Police were called. A trial was held and Collins was fond guilty on both new charges — tampering with a judicial officer and second-degree harassment.
The new convictions meant Collins 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 briefs, summary of the briefs and oral argument audio file are online.
This is Pokin Around column No. 39.