TAMPA — A man sentenced to federal prison for failing to pay thousands in child support had an offer for the court Wednesday: Let me out, Danny J. Collins said, and I'll pay the nearly $25,000 in support I owe.
Collins' boss was the source of the money. He said he had invested too much time and money training Collins, 43, who worked for him as a subcontractor doing electrical work. He agreed to pay the debt in exchange for Collins' one-year prison sentence being reduced to probation.
"There should be other means I can be punished (with), sir," Collins told the judge. "I'm begging for that now so I can have time with my son."
The mother of Collins' 14-year-old son, who lives with the child in Seminole and has been trying to get support from Collins for years, was in favor of the idea.
But U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, who sentenced the Weedsport, N.Y., resident last month, said no way.
"I'm unaccustomed to having someone offer to pay money to anyone in exchange for a reduction in a sentence," Merryday said.
Collins met his son, Brandon Wilder, for the first time on Sept. 2, the day he showed up to be sentenced for failing to pay $29,478 in back child support with a $5,000 check as partial payment. The two are developing a relationship, Brandon said. He speaks to his dad daily by phone.
Brandon has cystic fibrosis, and his mom said she recently had to cancel a doctor's visit because she couldn't afford it.
"I work hard, and Brandon doesn't lack anything," his mom, Michelle Wilder, said after court. "I think Judge Merryday was the first person in 14 years to stand up for Brandon, and he's not going to back down from that."