EXCLUSIVE REPORT: After piling up 60 indictable offenses since 1992 — including assaults on corrections officers, high-speed chases and assorted holdups — imprisoned felon Melvin Collins of Teaneck had his current term extended yesterday by a dozen years. Yet he still could be out in four.
“There’s not just a risk of committing another offense — it’s a virtual certainty,” Superior Court Judge James J. Guida said.
Yet the 12-year sentence Guida gave the habitual offender in Hackensack yesterday came with parole eligibility after only four years.
The sentence is to begin after Collins, 45, completes a five-year stretch for burglary that he began last August. He’s already up for parole on that one this June, however.
It’s up to the state Parole Board — and the outcome of yet another set of burglary charges against Collins that have yet to be heard.
Collins apologized yesterday, blaming a serious gambling addiction and a lesser problem with alcohol.
He said he went straight for a number of years, had a full-time job, passed all his drug tests and was even named an entrepreneur of the year by the NAACP — which he said he discovered while reading a newspaper behind bars.
In the fall of 2009, however, “I ran into some trouble and decided to run away from parole and got myself in jail,” he said.
As investigators watched, Collins and another man broke into an Arch Road house in Englewood that October, snatched a floor safe and several thousand dollars in cash and bolted out the back door.
The detectives had been tailing the pair as they cased houses in Teaneck, Leonia, Palisades Park and, finally, Englewood’s East Hill section, then followed them to Collins’ house after the break-in.
After arresting both, the investigators got search warrants and recovered the safe, the cash and pillow cases stuffed with three jewelry boxes, as well as a briefcase taken from the Arch Road home, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said.
Although those charges have yet to be resolved. authorities in Monmouth County won a conviction against Collins last year for a burglary that occurred just a week before the 2009 arrest. That’s what put him where he is now — Northern State Prison in Newark.
Defense attorney Gerald Saluti argued for a shorter sentence yesterday, noting that Collins previously proved that he could be a law-abiding citizen.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Natalie Candela offered different proof: She recited a lengthy history of recorded offenses that date back more than two decades.
- armed robberies;
- five separate assaults on corrections officers;
- burglaries and thefts;
- illegal weapons possession (including while a felon);
- resisting arrest;
- drug-related offenses.
Collins was sentenced to 31 years in 2002 — and paroled after seven — said Candela ( PHOTO ABOVE: bottom right ).
“He was given an ankle bracelet,” she told the judge. “He cut it off and went to North Carolina.”
After two high-speed chases, he was back behind bars again, the prosecutor said.
“The risk to offend is not a possibility — it’s an absolute guarantee,” Candela said. “Every opportunity he has had to be on parole, he has violated. How many chances can a person get?”
Sheriff’s officers took Collins directly to Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi for scheduling on the burglary charges from 2009. She set a status conference for March 25.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT courthouse reporter
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