What You Should Know About Rick Collins Before Hiring Him
Criminal defense lawyers hopefully never experience the criminal justice system firsthand. But we spend a lot of time in it, shepherding clients through stormy seas; serving as a defender and an advocate but sometimes as a counselor, a sounding board for venting, and an understanding ear. When a case is concluded, we often get expressions of enormous relief and gratitude. I’m so lucky that many of my cases go as well or better than expected. I work hard for that, and so do all the lawyers in my firm. But sometimes things don’t go as well as we hoped – not everything is within our control and there are no guarantees in life (lawyers who “promise” outcomes are best to be avoided). At best, the process can be a tough learning experience for most clients. But there are things that we as lawyers can learn, too. Every now and then, you get a client who expresses what the experience was like in great detail (even including a disappointing ending). I recently closed a case that afforded me the chance to hear what it felt like to be a criminal defense client over a period of several years (the reasons for the unusually lengthy case duration are immaterial here) and what he thought of me both before and after he hired me! The client wrote this for a “Client Reviews” website, but it was too lengthy to publish there so he sent it to me and asked me to post it here. It’s in his own words. It provided the unique opportunity for me as a criminal defense practitioner to hear things from the client’s perspective and to learn how what we do as lawyers – even the little things – can make a big difference in somebody’s life. ~ RC
It was spring of 2013. My parole agent (I was on parole for DUI) came to my house. 10:30 A.M. I could see in my front door cameras that the agent had blocked my driveway. It was not just my agent, it was another with him. I thought something odd, and I knew in my gut something was not right. The agents came in, gave me a Breathalyzer and a chit chat. Roughly 10 minutes later, the team stormed in. Probably 20 agents. Local, state, federal, who knows. They seized everything I had, from belts to cars to money.
At the time I had another lawyer on retainer but I knew he was no Rick Collins. I had spoken to Rick two years prior; he told me not to sell peptides online for “research purposes only” and not to sell prescription drugs / liquids / capsules claiming to be “not for human consumption” to customers who were probably and often definitely using it themselves. He said it was a fraud on FDA. I did not listen. That was the worst decision of my life, and one I will always deeply regret. But though I made the choice to commit the crime, I knew Rick was the powerhouse if doomsday ever came. And it came.
The agent asked me who I wanted him to call. I did give them two lawyers – the one I had on retainer and Rick. They said pick one. I had not spoken to Rick since he told me to stop, and I knew my only choice, my only hope of anything was Rick Collins. I told them to call.
I was taken into custody I believe for a parole violation for alcohol being at the house. I cannot be totally sure on that due to my own drinking. I had to sit for 5-7 days. My mother and Rick handled everything and Rick was on the case.
I had a meeting with my lawyers – Rick Collins and a local lawyer he brought in to help named Bill Fetterhoff. Days before the meeting and the morning of I was not in good shape. I went off the deep end drinking so much that I actually showed up to the meeting with Rick, Bill and my mother with two different color shoes on and half in the bag. Now you would think big shot Rick Collins from New York would have gotten up and walked away. Oddly, I thought, he did not. I was in the same room physically, but I really way not there at all. Rick understood my situation and problem so he more so spoke to my mother who would later relay to me.
Millions in money and assets were frozen. They had thrown some heavy charges my way. I started out looking at 15 years based on the money I made and other guideline “enhancements.” Fifteen years! That’s how the original proposed plea agreement calculated my sentence. Rick said he wouldn’t let me agree to that. I signed over assets they wanted, but we did not agree to the plea deal. Instead, Rick kept pushing the prosecutor for a lower guideline calculation, insisting that there were no “victims” in the case and that there was “no loss” because the buyers got exactly what they paid for.
This was not over a month or two-month period. It was probably at close to a year. I will say, Rick Collins from New York answered all my emails, my calls, 9pm, 10pm, my complaining – and there was a lot of complaining – and he always answered. Year two of this I even had his cell number and he answered my text, which I never abused having that number but he answered them. For roughly two years Rick was fighting off the two sentencing mountains called Victims and Loss. Those two things carry a lot of time and guideline points. Well, Rick worked for two years or more trying to disprove those things and did not let up. Yes, Rick Collins, supposedly this big shot from New York, spent two years for one client fighting off probably the most serious aspect of the charges.
About 2.5 years went by since the raid. I got an email from Rick stating that he was able to establish that there was no loss and no victims. I did not realize the seriousness of this or the victory in this until it was explained. I half wondered if Rick and his team were just sitting around until I saw all the communications over that 2.5-year period. To prove this point over 10 calls and over 10 emails. That is just what I was able to gather looking at the emails. Only God knows how much really took place. If you have ever been in a federal situation, getting ahold of someone 2-3 times is a miracle. So being Rick was able to communicate 20x or more that I could see you can multiple that number by 5 how many calls and emails it took to get ONE reply. Keep in mind, while I did not know all this work was going on, I was emailing at least every 2 weeks for an update. Even if there was no update he still replied to every email.
I cannot think of any lawyer who would not have asked for more of a payment, or even stuck with proving this to be unreasonable of a charge for 2.5 years straight. Maybe they work on something on and off and then right away it’s a call for anther check or it’s too much work and they accept things for what they are and stop fighting. Rick Collins did not follow the lawyer protocol, in my opinion he followed the, “you hired me, you’re family now, whatever it takes” approach. Think of one lawyer that you were able to get ahold of the same day any day? None. There is none. Period, as far as I know. So, I would like to stress the fact, and I will numerous times, that this is no “New York City big shot cocky lawyer” or overpriced, which I’ll get to later. He’s super down to earth.
Now, during this 2.5-year period, I was binge drinking like a fish. Every three months I’m getting drunk out of my mind. There was a point my mother called RICK COLLINS and said “I don’t know what to do with him, Rick.” Rick actually called me, more than once. Now here is my lawyer calling me to make sure I’m okay and giving me a positive talk to clean myself up, telling me I have all the potential in the world. I mean just think about that. We are going on three years, and he has not asked me for anther penny from the initial payment and here’s Rick calling me on his own time to give me a talk. Amazing. Just Amazing.
Over 3 years after the raid we are finally ready to plea. November of 2016. Rick flew in from New York to Florida to be with me. He did not shell it off on another local lawyer. He attended himself, again over three years in. He even stayed at a friend’s house to save me the cost of a hotel. At the plea hearing, he very carefully made sure all the conditions that were agreed on were set and that there were no unexpected conditions tossed in at the last minute. He did not just stand there, he was active all the way.
Christmas 2016 anther card from him. This would be my 3rd Christmas card. He never forgot about me.
Middle of 2017 the presentence report came and it was a mess. Recommendation of 36 months with an Upward Departure requested based on the money I made. Based on my prior arrests, I was at a Criminal History Category VI – you cannot go higher than a VI. It’s the top end. For the next year, Rick and his team Phillip Nash and Bill Fetterhoff fought night and day to get this history category lowered. We were over four years into this and still fighting. Rick made sure to request Continuances of Sentencing over and over and over to make sure we had all of our ducks in a row. We even went over every single item that was seized to make sure nothing was missed in our argument that I had already paid a heavy price. Rick called to double and triple check on any information he was putting together. We objected time and time again to the presentence report and finally were mostly successful, but he was not done. At the end of 2017, another Christmas card and still no lack in communication at all.
I knew 2018 would be the year. Rick was able to get the presentence report sentencing range lowered to within reason. Rick continued constant communication with the US Attorney’s office, IRS, and FDA. Again, Rick stayed on everything and continued to get Continuances of Sentencing approved until we were in the right position. There was call after call leading up to sentencing. There was never a delay in response there was never a lack in interest from Rick. I can assure you at some points I irritated the hell out of him.
In May 2018 – that’s 5 years into this and the man has not changed. We are on a three-way call with the agents, talking about everything and Rick says to them, “I know this is off the exact topic, but my client has drastically changed, I do not say this just about anyone.” He went on for a few minutes completely off topic to stress the fact of the change he has seen in his client. I say again what lawyer do you know after 5 years, dealing with a drunk the first 2.5 years, battling tooth and nail, does not just rush to get off the phone and onto a case he or she was just paid for? None. Period. There is none, in my opinion. It seemed to me like Rick was putting his own credibility out there in the way he pushed on my behalf.
Sentencing was in 2018. Over 5 years later, Rick was able to persuade the US Attorney to recommend a Criminal History Category of III – half of the VI that technically applied. That’s a dramatic and very rare drop. I had gotten four separate DUI’s in eleven months and originally, they were counted separated. He was able to get them to be considered as just one, based on the idea of a continuous state of intoxication, which was true. We started at 15 years with the loss, the victims and so on; Rick was able to get the agents and the US Attorney, Assistant US Attorney who was highly experienced, very fair but surely no pushover to recommend straight probation. We came a dramatic way from where we were at the start of this long journey.
We headed into sentencing and everything that Rick said he was able to achieve was true. The US Attorney’s Office recommended straight probation, no incarceration, Rick and the US Attorney pled their case to the judge as to the reasons why. Rick topped it off with more and more why it should be a noncustodial sentence. The judge did not accept the recommendations and gave me 10 months. Rick did warn me it could go either way you never know, but I was at a loss for words.
At this point you would assume that Rick would be done. He did his job. I mean, what could I say, we went from 15 years as a guideline offer to where the US Attorney’s Office was recommending probation. There was not a better situation in the world Rick could have placed me in. But Rick did not give up. He went back to New York, found me consultants who aid in BOP matters including early release. He did not just pick anyone either. He took to the time after 5.5 years, after I’m already sentenced that real research was done prior to recommending. He also got me an extension of time to surrender, so that I could put myself in the best situation to continue earning an honest living when I am released.
I am a different person than I was 5 years ago. I could never have gone on the way I was going. I don’t know if I would be here now if I wasn’t forced to face my own problems. The fact that the case took so long was the best thing for me. I’m proud to say that I have fully acknowledged my alcohol addiction and I now spend every day embracing sobriety and being the best person I can be. This was a long journey but I am now a better person, and a healthier person, by far.
I will end with this: Rick Collins is not cocky in any way shape or form, he is not overpriced – I know many lawyers who charge much, much more and no way they’re going to give you what he brings. When you hire him, you’re family. I was in the best possible position in a million years I could ask for. I’m telling you there is no one better and no matter what you do or what happens he sticks by his clients past the end.
So, in summary, at the start I was looking at 15 years, but ended up having the US Attorney’s office recommending probation! Stuck by me for 5.5 years, drinking, questions, second guessing him and did not get offended. AFTER sentencing still stuck by me to find me the best team for best chance of release, after all that, made sure my extension for surrendering stuck. The most important of all from beginning to now, there is no end, he has treated me like family just as he said he would day one.
I would like anyone reading this who questions whether to hire Rick Collins to feel free to email me with any questions. I’ll get the email personally to: [email protected]
I want to thank this client for his candor. Feedback like this inspires me and makes me want to be a better and better lawyer. I promise to keep working hard for every client. It’s my privilege to be able to do what I do for people who need my help. ~ RC