Massachusetts Courts: Paul Collins

Former Framingham probation officer Paul Collins guilty of gun trafficking March 12, 2019
Norman Miller 508-626-3823 Metrowest Daily News
WOBURN - Sentencing has been scheduled for next Wednesday in the case of a former associate probation officer following his conviction in Middlesex Superior Court Tuesday on gun trafficking.

The jury of eight women and four men on Tuesday found Paul Collins, 65, of Revere, guilty of the most serious of his three charges - trafficking in firearms - after about five hours of deliberation following three days of testimony.

The jury cleared Collins of possession of a gun without a permit and possession of ammunition without a permit.

Moments after his conviction, Collins turned to look at his family before he was led away in handcuffs by court officers.

Collins, a former Framingham District Court associate probation officer, was accused of giving a gun to a woman frequently on probation whom he had met through his role at work. That gun was later traded to a drug dealer in exchange for drugs, authorities said.

Judge Michael Ricciuti initially scheduled sentencing for Tuesday, but prosecutor Joshua Pakstis asked for a delay until Wednesday so he could work with his superiors to come up with a sentencing recommendation. Defense attorney Carmine Lepore argued for the sentencing to take place on Tuesday.

Ricciuti rescheduled the sentencing until next Wednesday because it is the first day both Lepore and Pakstis can be in court at the same time. The judge denied Lepore's request to release Collins with a GPS monitor until sentencing because Collins will likely be facing prison time.

Lepore declined to comment until after next week's sentencing.

Earlier in the day, both Lepore and Pakstis made their closing arguments to the jury.

Throughout the trial, witnesses spoke about a relationship between Collins and Andrea Fazio, who is also charged in the case, but Lepore told the jury during his closing argument that, if there was a relationship, it didn't matter.

"There's a big backdrop to this case," said Lepore. "It's a backdrop that means nothing, and that's the idea of a relationship. Andrea Fazio was not on probation in May or June 2016 and Paul Collins never supervised her. It means nothing, put that out of your mind. It's not an issue of whether he was doing his job as an associate probation officer. He wasn't doing his job. She wasn't on probation."

Collins, Lepore said, was just trying to help a woman whom he thought needed the help. He never did anything improper, and the relationship was nothing more than him trying to assist her.

On Monday, the jury saw a video of Collins discussing the gun with Framingham police officers. Lepore said Collins was not acting nervously, and told the same story consistently, that the .25-caliber handgun that authorities said he gave to Fazio had been stolen in 1985 from a Somerville market he owned.

The fact that the gun ended up in the hands of suspected drug dealer Carlos Santos is just circumstantial evidence, Lepore argued.

Prosecutors never presented evidence that Collins ever possessed the gun or ammunition or ever transported it, Lepore said. He said they could not prove, even if Collins had the gun, that he ever brought it to Framingham District Court or had it in his car. They also can't prove he had ammunition or that he ever loaded it, Lepore said.

The only person to testify that Collins gave the gun to Fazio was former Framingham/Natick District Court probation officer David DiGiorgio, who was forced to retire due to not reporting the relationship between Collins and Fazio.

But Lepore said DiGiorgio's testimony last week was not realistic. DiGiorgio testified that he yelled at Collins after Collins told him in a courtroom that he had given Fazio the gun.

"Does it make sense to you that Paul Collins would admit to Dave DiGiorgio in a courtroom, with people milling about, something so serious?" asked Lepore. "It didn't happen that way. It didn't happen."

But Pakstis told the jury during his closing argument that there is ample evidence that Collins gave Fazio the gun.

"He was clearly infatuated with her," said Pakstis. "Was that the motivation? Was it to protect her? She was a drug addict and he knew the street value of the gun."

Collins' infatuation with Fazio led him to stand up in her defense when she was arrested last June 10 for driving with a suspended license. Termed unusual by witnesses, it was that act that led DiGiorgio to tell his boss, and later police, what happened.

"Maybe it was because he was infatuated with her? Maybe he wanted to show her what he could do?" Pakstis said.

Testimony from two people showed Collins never reported his handgun stolen, the prosecutor added. Pakstis cited text messages from Fazio to someone believed to be Santos about trading the .25-caliber Beretta for drugs. That was the type of gun Framingham police arrested Santos with in May 2016, and the one with the serial number that proved the gun was owned by Collins, he said.

Jurors could make a "reasonable inference" that Collins gave Fazio the gun, Pakstis said.

"The defendant abused his position as an associate probation officer to have and maintain this relationship with Andrea Fazio," said Pakstis. "Probation officers work hard and they help probationers, but they do it within the context of the law. We may never know what possessed the defendant to give her a loaded handgun. The reason doesn't matter. The fact is, he did give her a loaded firearm."

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