By Rich Bockmann
The MTA may want to consider printing some new “If you see something, say something” posters.
Darius McCollum, the curious figure who has gained a sort of minor-celebrity status with his penchant for impersonating transit workers, was immediately available for parole after he was sentenced last week for driving a stolen bus near John F. Kennedy International Airport nearly three years ago.
Police spotted McCollum, who has been arrested more than two dozen times on similar charges, on Hillside Avenue in Queens Aug. 31, 2010, driving a Trailways bus he had illegally requisitioned from a bus terminal in Hoboken, N.J., earlier in the day as it was undergoing maintenance.
For nearly three years the 48-year-old has waited in jail and, after pleading guilty to possessing stolen property last month, he was sentenced Aug. 15 to 2 1/2 to five years in prison, making him available for parole.
“There’s no timeline [for parole],” said McCollum’s attorney, Sally Butler. “Since he’s already served the mandatory minimum, they’re supposed to get him [to a parole hearing] pretty quickly.”
As part of the plea deal with the Queens district attorney’s office, Butler said she has been working with the mental health community to find treatment for McCollum’s Asperger’s syndrome.
“Part of the problem is finding a facility that can treat Asperger’s,” she said. “It has to be residential.”
McCollum, who grew up near the 179th Street F train stop in Jamaica, made his first headline in 1981 when, at the age of 15, he managed to operate an E train six stops from 34th Street in Manhattan to the World Trade Center before he was spotted and arrested, according to reports.
While in Manhattan court for impersonating a transit worker in 2001, McCollum’s advocates reportedly told the judge he had Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, though the judge did not recognize his disorder and sent him to jail, according to news reports.
Butler said this time around, the Queens DA’s office brought in its own professional, who diagnosed McCollum’s disorder.
The transit enthusiast was arrested several more times over the years. In 2008, he claimed to be a safety consultant when police picked him up at the Long Island Rail Road station in Jamaica wearing an orange vest and hard hat, officials said. Authorities found him with stolen railroad keys, including one that operated an M-7 locomotive, according to the DA’s office.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.