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Columbus Allen: 'I did it'
After over four years of claims of being innocent, Columbus Allen Jr. admitted in court Monday that he murdered California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott of Hughson during a 2006 traffic stop.

The surprise move came one week after his trial was to begin - but was delayed - in Sacramento County following a change of venue.

Allen, 34, admitted he was the man who fatally shot Scott, 36, in the head during a Feb. 17, 2006 traffic stop on northbound Highway 99 north of Salida. Allen admitted he was fearful of going to prison for being a felon in possession of a handgun. The admission of guilt, said the Stanislaus County District Attorney's office, was Allen's way of escaping the death penalty.

Allen's attorneys came to prosecutors early last week saying Allen would admit guilt and waive the right to an appeal, in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors consulted with Scott's family and friends and learned that they supported the move.

The plea bargain to get out of a four- to six-month trial saves the taxpayers of Stanislaus County approximately $1.5 million while guaranteeing that Allen never walks as a free man.

"While there may never be such a thing as closure for the friends and family of Officer Scott," said District Attorney Birgit Fladager, "there will be at least finality to the criminal case. There will be no decades-long appeal process for them to endure and constantly worrying about the possibility of reversal."

After Allen entered his plea, a statement written by Judy Whitney was read in court about her son's murder. Others who spoke were friend and Modesto police officer Robert Hart, who roomed with Scott for 12 years in Ceres, and friend and fellow CHP officer Brandon Moore.

Judge Scott Steffen sentenced Allen to life in prison without the chance of parole in addition to a three-year sentence for being a felon in possession of a fireman and having served a prior prison term for cocaine transportation and auto theft.

The Sacramento trial did not start on July 26 as planned because the Fifth District Court of Appeals imposed a stay in order to consider a writ filed by Allen's attorneys to challenge the pick of the Sacramento judge who was to preside over the case.

Feb. 17, 2006

Scott pulled over Allen at approximately 4:40 a.m. just south of the Hammett Road exit because Allen was speeding over 80 mph. The driver shot Scott through an open window and accelerated northbound on Highway 99. The mortally wounded Scott was found clutching onto the registration papers of a 1990 Nissan Maxima registered to Allen's wife, Bertera Allen.

Authorities say Allen ditched the car after the shooting before appearing at the home of friend Christopher Hicks in Stockton. He showed up at Stockton Police headquarters less than five hours after the shooting claiming that his car had been stolen. The car was later found ditched near Lathrop.

Allen called a Sacramento TV station that day to deny any participation in the killing.

Cell phone records show that Allen had used the phone near Manteca at 4:42 a.m. Other physical evidence in the prosecution arsenal included gunpowder residue from Allen's hands and sweatshirt as well as on the Nissan's door frame and front passenger seat.

Allen was a student at Ceres High School during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 school years before transferring to Franklin High School in Stockton during his senior year.

Scott was nearing his fifth anniversary with the CHP upon his death. He had been assigned to the Modesto division of the CHP for three years after starting out in the Santa Cruz area. Scott previously worked for the California Department of Corrections at the Sierra Conservation Center near Jamestown. From June 1996 to August 2000 he was a reserve officer with the Modesto Police Department. At that time Scott, who never married, lived with his best friend and fellow officer Robert Hart on Soda Canyon Drive in Ceres.

In the Modesto courtroom, Allen pled guilty to first-degree murder with use of a gun, as well as special circumstances of murder of a peace officer, murder to avoid arrest, murder by discharging a firearm from a vehicle at a person outside of a vehicle with the intent to kill. Allen also entered a guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm with prior sentencing.