George Collins was everything that we have seen the worst of the Birfers to be. A brief account from [link]Guardians of the City,http://guardiansofthecity.org/sheriff/1906/index.html[/link] about George Collins during the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire describes Collins' behavior during the fire, while his case was still on appeal:
The long line of prisoners guarded by Sheriff's deputies, national Guardsmen, and sailors, made their way through the streets of North Beach toward their destination, Fort Mason. After being loaded on a launch, the detail sailed to San Quentin Prison only to be turned away. Because they had arrived with military escort, Warden John Edgar was not convinced they were state prisoners and refused to accept them. The prisoner ship sailed back to San Francisco, "but as it entered the harbor the thousands of persons who lined the wharves, holding out entreating arms and pleading to be taken aboard and away from the scene of destruction, caused the captain to steam away, finally landing the prisoners at Alcatraz Island." Originally a defensive military fortress, the Alcatraz facility had been converted to a federal military prison in 1861 during the Civil War. The 176 San Francisco prisoners were accepted on an emergency basis at Alcatraz, after almost two days of marching and sailing under guard. Along the way, at least two prisoners hoped the earthquake and fire would work in their favor. The more desperate of the two was local attorney and notorious bigamist George D. Collins, who was already convicted of perjury and sentenced to the maximum sentence of fourteen years in State Prison. Apparently not optimistic of his chances on appeal, Mr. Collins attempted to escape twice during the long evacuation. When the Broadway Jail was emptied out, Collins turned up missing. "A hurried search through the gloomy building on Broadway disclosed him hiding under a cot, where he had chosen to face the approaching flames rather than chance the fortunes of human justice once more." Later, on one of the watery transport, "a number of prisoners were separated from the Sheriff" before custody of all but one was regained. Collins was missing again. Sheriff O'Neil thought it possible that Collins had jumped ship prior to docking. After what is described as " a frenzied hunt," Collins was discovered hiding in a dark ship's closet. While Mr. Collins' journey was far from over, he lost his best chance to escape - and his appeal, which went all the way to the United States Supreme Court - and eventually was received at San Quentin in 1909 after years of legal maneuvering. There he stayed until his release in 1918.Another prisoner had much better luck, likely due to much better connections. That prisoner was William F. Hopkins, nephew of the late millionaire Mark Hopkins. Although serving a ninety-day sentence for assault, within ten days of the earthquake, young Mr. Hopkins was pleased to be released after receiving a pardon signed by California Governor George Pardee.
Hopkins got the best justice that money could buy. Collins, without such family connections, was not so lucky. People were dying in the city while law officers searched for Collins instead of assisted in rescue efforts. I am quite sure that Collins did not care.This was the man that [link]The Undead Revolution,http://undeadrevolution.wordpress.com/[/link] and Leo briefly idolized.
“The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.” Kurt Vonnegut