Prosecutors want Chris Collins to serve nearly five years in prison, say he should have known better

Jan 14, 2020

Chris Collins
Credit WBFO file photo

Chris Collins’ friends and family repeatedly noted his strong moral compass and Boy Scouts membership in their letters asking a federal judge for leniency.


Prosecutors, in their own letter to the judge, say those facts mean Collins should serve longer.


“He was well positioned to know better,” they wrote.


U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York filed their sentencing submission Monday, arguing Collins should receive a sentence on the high-end of his 46-to-57-month sentencing guidelines. That would mean the disgraced former Congressman would serve close to five years in prison.

Collins pleaded guilty this fall to providing his son Cameron with an inside stock tip in 2017 and later lying about it when questioned by the FBI. 


Prosecutors, including U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, wrote it’s critical that Collins’ sentence send a message that those in power are not above the law. 


“Collins’s decision to break the law while making the law — a decision that he made twice, ten months apart — was brazen,” they wrote.


Prosecutors used their letter to contradict many of the arguments made by Collins’ family, friends and even former Congressional colleagues in their letters made public last week. 


Many of their letters cite Collins’ high character, success in business and work with Boy Scouts as reasons he should get a lighter sentence, but prosecutors say those details simply underscore that Collins should have known better than to commit a financial crime.


Prosecutors also refute family and friends’ claim that Collins’ crime was a momentary lapse of judgment. 

Collins, a board member of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics, received an email June 22, 2017 that the company’s multiple sclerosis drug failed clinical trials. Collins, while on the White House lawn, called Cameron, allowing Cameron to dump his stock in the company and avoid losses. 


“I suspect he must have panicked following receipt of bad news and acted to protect his son, like many imperfect human fathers would do in a similar situation,” wrote Ronald Graham, who is CEO of one of Collins’ companies.


However, prosecutors wrote Collins tried calling Cameron several times before finally connecting, giving him several chances to rethink providing the inside tip. Plus, Collins later made up a cover story for Cameron to tell the FBI, according to prosecutors.


“This was not a crime of passion,” prosecutors wrote.


Prosecutors also disagree with the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Systems. Probation officials recommend Collins serve a year and a day in prison, citing the fact Collins acted “out of concern for his son.”


Prosecutors argue Collins could have easily afforded to make up for his son’s potential $500,000 loss, but simply chose to disregard the law. They also noted that Cameron Collins is already worth $21 million.


“His call to Cameron ... was about helping a man worth $21 million avoid $500,000 in losses,” prosecutors wrote.


Above all, prosecutors wrote Collins’ sentence has to discourage other white collar criminals. They wrote insider trading is simple to do and hard to detect, making it all the more important that the punishment is steep. 


Collins’ sentencing is set for Friday afternoon in Manhattan. Cameron and his future father-in-law Stephen Zarsky will be sentenced next week.