By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer
MIAMI TWP. - Colleagues often left notes on Lisa Allen's car, so when she picked up a package on her windshield one afternoon in February of 2001 as she left her job at the Hamilton County courthouse, she didn't think much of it.
Then she opened it.
Inside were audiotapes of telephone conversations and a letter that her husband, Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, wrote to another woman.
She didn't know who left the package, but when she popped the cassette tape into her car stereo, the message was clear.
"It left no room for doubt that my husband was having an affair," Lisa Allen said Tuesday.
When her husband got home, she confronted him and played the tapes for him. Mike Allen, 48, admitted that his mistress was Rebecca Collins, an assistant prosecutor in his office. Their relationship, he told his wife, began in December 1999 when Collins worked as an intern.
"I'm an attorney, I was a prosecutor for 12 years, I try not to lose my temper," Lisa Allen said. "But I let him have it."
Initially enraged, she said she left for a few days. But the couple's two children - and pleas from Allen that they work on their marriage and seek counseling - pulled her back.
Although she thought the affair was over, she feared that Collins would retaliate.
"I anticipated if she didn't get what she wanted - to marry Mike, to get power or money - I thought she would do this," said Lisa Allen, who met with a steady stream of reporters for one-on-one interviews throughout the day to discuss the scandal that has led some leaders and citizens to call for his resignation from the politically powerful prosecutor's office.
Collins, 33, who works in the civil division of the prosecutor's office, filed a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court that accused Allen of coercing her into an affair, having sex with her during office hours and threatening to ruin her career if she stopped seeing him.
Before going to work for Allen, Collins worked as a news aide and copy editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Mike Allen's lawyer called Collins' accusations "outrageous and false" and said his client's 31/2-year relationship with Collins was consensual.
Lisa Allen, a Hamilton County Municipal Court judge, said she recognizes the newsworthiness of the story because he is an elected official, but pleaded for her family's privacy.
"There's a lot of salacious stuff that does not need to be there in order to report the story," she said. "You've got three people here who are completely innocent: Myself and our two children."
"I'm a grown-up, I'll handle it. I don't want to, but I can," she added. "My children are being affected by this."
Collins' lawyer, Randy Freking, called Lisa Allen's decision to talk to the reporters "an aggressive public relations campaign" by her husband.
"He's doing what he can do to maintain his job," Freking said. "Maybe it's an act of desperation."
Lisa Allen said she and her husband are continuing to work to repair their 22-year marriage.
Now 46, Lisa Allen spoke mostly matter-of-factly from the edge of her couch, her voice catching occasionally as she talked about difficult moments in her marriage.
After that difficult February 2001 night, months of counseling and his promises that the affair was over, Allen came to her again in the summer of 2002.
He was still seeing Collins, he told his wife.
This time, Lisa Allen kicked her husband out of their Miami Township home.
"I told him to leave,'' she said, "and he did."
A few weeks later, Lisa Allen said, her cell phone rang. Her husband's mistress was on the other end.
"She was angry and crying, she wanted me to come to her home and settle this," Lisa Allen said of her conversation with Collins.
Her husband was at Collins' home, and Collins refused to let him leave, blocking the driveway with her car until everything could be sorted out, Collins told Lisa Allen.
"It's clear she wanted me to divorce him," Lisa Allen said.
Lisa Allen did not go to Collins' home.
But Allen later told his wife that Collins punched him in the mouth that night.
That "hysterical" phone call made things worse between the Allens, she said.
The couple remained separated. Gov. Bob Taft appointed Lisa Allen a municipal court judge in February 2003.
She worked hard as a judge, and many colleagues spoke highly of her. But she struggled with what could be a life-altering decision: Should she let her husband come home?
By then, he alone was seeing a counselor. And shortly thereafter, she agreed to go to marriage counseling with him again. But still, she didn't let him move back home.
In August, she called Collins: "I wanted to hear from her that it was over, not that I really trusted her," Lisa Allen said.
Collins, Lisa Allen said, promised that the affair had ended. In fact, Collins told Lisa Allen that she had fallen in love with another man and was getting married.
Two months later, Collins married Eric LeCount. They divorced last month. LeCount has declined repeated requests for interviews.
Allen moved home in December 2003.
In the following months, Lisa Allen said, her husband made every effort to make things right with her and their children, she said.
Less than a month ago, Allen came home with devastating news: Collins had filed an internal sexual harassment complaint and wanted $3 million from her husband.
"He was a mess," Lisa Allen said.
The financial demand was absurd, Lisa Allen said. But it wasn't a surprise.
Lisa Allen refused to comment on Collins' accusations, which are outlined in the lawsuit - that her husband and Collins had two sexual encounters, once in January 2004 and another in April 2004.
As rumors about the affair circulated last week, Allen said she and her husband decided that he would publicly admit the affair.
"It was betrayal of the values I have always held most dear," Mike Allen announced to a group of reporters. "It hurt my family and nearly wrecked my marriage. I have dedicated myself to earning their forgiveness."
He asked that people respect his family's privacy.
Lisa Allen blames both Collins and her husband: "It takes two to tango. This is not a one-sided thing."
Still, she doesn't think her husband should resign his office, saying he is a good prosecutor.
"There has been turmoil since 2001," she said. "He's handled tough cases. He's able to do it. That tells you something about how he is."
She declined comment on whether she trusts her husband, calling that a private matter.
When asked if she would remain married, she said: "We'll see."
On whether the public should trust her husband, Lisa Allen said:
"That's up to the public. It's not something I can answer."
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