BELDING, Mich. (WOOD) — A story of forgiveness and redemption heard in Belding Saturday as the man who spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit has forged a bond of brotherhood with the corrupt cop who put him there.
The pair spoke Saturday at Belding High School in front of about 100 people for an event called “Come Together” organized by Belding Ministerial Association.
Andrew Collins says his corruption began not long after he joined the Benton Harbor Police Department in 2003, fresh out of the academy. He was a hotshot known for putting scores of people away for drugs.
At first, it was his ego that drove him to plant evidence and lie. Later it was the money he was taking off of suspects and the $10,000 he admitted embezzling from the city.
“It’s really easy to convince yourself that what you’re doing has purpose, even if it’s wrong, it has purpose. I was completely convinced in that place that it was OK for me to do what I had been doing,” Collins said.
It all came crashing down in 2008 when he was caught. Some 50 cases had to be dismissed by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office.
“If it wouldn’t have ended this way with me getting caught, I don’t know how it would’ve ended,” Collins said.
One of those cases dismissed was against Jameel McGee. He was convicted of dealing drugs and sentenced to 10 years in prison thanks to the cocaine planted on him by Collins and the officer’s testimony at trial.
When McGee was in prison, he would think about he would do if he met the cop who did this to him.
“Yes, that was a goal back then. To find him and hurt him, just the way I was hurting, that was my end goal,” McGee said.
As Collins went to federal prison for 18 months in 2009, McGee was released after four years.
The men say it’s something more than coincidence that led to meet at a café run by a religious organization in 2011.
By then, both men had embraced Christianity. Collins asked McGee for forgiveness and McGee gave it.
“It was pretty much for me. I needed to do that because what it was doing to me, what it was making me become,” McGee said.
Now, the pair travel the country telling their story and they have a book coming out in September.
“We’re just two totally different people because of the power of God and the power of Christ, so it’s almost like we’re telling somebody else’s story,” Collins said.