The last stop for serial transit thief Darius McCollum will be an insane asylum if prosecutors have anything to say about it.
McCollum, who pleaded guilty this year to stealing an empty Greyhound bus due to mental disease, testified Wednesday in a hearing to determine whether he is so dangerously ill that he needs to be institutionalized. Now 52, he has been arrested more than 30 times since he was 15 for criminally impersonating MTA, MetroNorth, LIRR, Greyhound and Trailway bus drivers and train operators.
McCollum’s attorney, Sally Butler, is advocating for her longtime client to be released into the community and live in a halfway house that provides mental health services.
If Justice Ruth Shillingford agrees with prosecutors and parks him permanently, it will be an ironic ending for the man with an endless fascination with iron, steel and chrome conveyances.
During a November 2015 burglary from a Hoboken, N.J., depot, prosecutors said, there was a “dangerous” snowstorm and McCollum put riders’ lives at risk.
But McCollum, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and autism, said he thought he was lending a helping hand.
“At the time, they were short-staffed and I was acting in the matter I represented,” McCollum said in response to questions from Assistant District Attorney Janet Gleeson.
“Do you believe you were risking the lives of the passengers driving in inclement weather without training or a license?” asked Gleeson.
“Yes,” replied McCollum who admitted to illegally taking over transit thousands of times — sometimes in a uniform gifted to him from a retired employee.
McCollum operated MTA trains 5,000 times and conducted the LIRR Babylon line fewer than 1,000. He took a “couple hundred” illegal trips on MetroNorth and 120 on Amtrak.
“My longest trip was from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Penn Station,” said McCollum, who wasn’t sure if passengers were onboard the 10-hour trip.
During his snowstorm joyride, he was concerned with getting passengers to their destinations in the bad weather and had to “convince” himself to get behind the wheel.
The prosecutors expressed concerned that McCollum would graduate from stealing buses and trains to taking airplanes.
“Didn’t you tell police when you were arrested that you would take a plane next?” Gleason asked.
“No,” McCollum replied.
Shillingford will determine at a later date where McCollum will land.