Prosecutors push for maximum sentence for former Rep. Chris Collins

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters as he leaves the courthouse after a pretrial hearing in his insider-trading case, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York (WHAM) - Federal prosecutors strongly urged the judge overseeing the sentencing of former Congressman Chris Collins to pursue the maximum possible sentence as a "just punishment" for the crime.

In an 11-page letter sent to Judge Vernon Broderick on Monday, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman made the case for the prosecution that the former Republican Congressional representative should be sentenced more harshly to promote respect for the law, provide just punishment for the offense, deter future lawmakers from committing similar crimes, and avoid unwarranted disparities in sentencing.

Collins, who represented New York's 27th Congressional District until pleading guilty to insider trading charges and lying to the FBI last October, would face a maximum of 57 months (4 3/4 years) in prison.

In August 2018, Collins was charged with insider trading and lying to the FBI, along with his son Cameron and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's girlfriend. Collins is accused of using non-public information from an Australian biotech firm to tip off his son to sell stock in the firm ahead of a failed clinical trial for a drug that treated multiple sclerosis. Collins was serving as a board member at the time.

The tip off saved the stockholders approximately $800,000, prosecutors allege.

On October 1, 2019, Collins, 69, entered guilty pleas in federal court in Manhattan on one count each of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements. He resigned shortly after entering the plea.

"Collins came to embody the cynical idea that those in power who make the laws are not required to follow them," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also made the argument that allowing Collins to be sentenced to a lighter prison term would "incentivize insiders similarly situated to Collins to engage in similar conduct."

Collins is scheduled to be sentenced on January 17.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he would like to set a special election for the 27th District on April 28, which would line up with the presidential primary, according to the New York Attorney General's Office. In order to make the special election date official, the governor needs to issue a formal proclamation.