Helena mayor, U.S. Senate candidate denies leaving scene of minor accident

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins, left, appeared in court Tuesday morning on misdemeanor charges related to a minor traffic accident last week. (MTN News)

Helena mayor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Wilmot Collins made his first appearance in court Tuesday in connection with a crash last week.

Collins pleaded guilty to careless driving and not guilty to leaving the scene of an accident.

The crash happened May 20 at the intersection of Last Chance Gulch and Lyndale Avenue. Helena police said a driver from Butte had been stopped at the light when Collins’ SUV struck her vehicle from behind.

Collins told the court Tuesday his foot had slipped off the brake, but that he drove off because he didn’t believe he had hit the other vehicle. The woman caught up to Collins at the Vans Thriftway parking lot where he said he saw there had been minor damage from a crash.

Collins appeared in Lewis and Clark County Justice Court. The Lewis and Clark County Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case because of a potential conflict of interest with the Helena City Attorney’s office.

Judge Mike Swingley ordered Collins to pay $85 on the careless driving charge, which he said would be the typical sentence. Collins paid the fine immediately after the hearing.

Brian Miller, Collins’ attorney, told MTN it will likely be several months before the other charge is fully resolved. He said they will seek video from the Vans Thriftway lot.

-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News