Chris Collins again asks to delay start of prison sentence due to COVID-19
Disgraced former congressman Chris Collins is once again asking to delay his federal prison sentence given concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collins, who was sentenced in January to 26 months incarceration for insider trading and lying to the FBI, requested Thursday that his prison report day be delayed by nearly two months, from June 23 to Aug. 18.
In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Vernon Broderick, Collins’ attorneys noted older adults like Collins are at higher risk to become seriously ill from COVID-19. They also note that there have been 5,000 cases and 64 deaths in federal prisons since the pandemic began, although those numbers are believed to be significantly underreported.
“It would be dangerous, unnecessary, and potentially deadly for an elderly, non-violent, first time offender to report to prison in the midst of a global pandemic that has grown dramatically in recent months,” wrote BakerHostetler attorney Jonathan New in the letter, adding that federal prosecutors have agreed to the request.
It is the third time Collins, 70, has sought a delay in reporting to prison. He was originally supposed to be incarcerated March 17, but was granted a delay to April 21 because the Federal Bureau of Prisons had failed to assign him to a facility. After officially being assigned to a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Fla., Collins asked for and received an extension to June 23 due to concerns about COVID-19; Collins now resides in Marco Island, Fla.
In their latest request, Collins’ attorneys note that another elderly inmate from the Pensacola prison camp was recently released early. Billy Walters, 73, was serving a five-year sentence for insider trading and was not due to be released until 2022.
“His early release appears to be based largely on his age and the particular vulnerability of the elderly population,” New wrote. “He will serve the remainder of his sentence on home confinement.”
Collins, a Republican, served as congressman for New York’s 27th congressional district from 2013 to 2019. He was indicted for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI in August 2018, but continued to run for re-election, narrowly defeating Democrat challenger Nate McMurray in November 2018.
Less than a year later, in October 2019, Collins resigned from Congress and pleaded guilty. He was sentenced Jan. 26 to serve 26 months in federal prison and to pay a $200,000 fine.
The case stemmed from Collins’ role as a board member of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics. Collins, while on the White House lawn June 22, 2017, received an email that Innate’s multiple sclerosis drug failed clinical trials. Collins then immediately called his son, Cameron Collins, allowing Cameron to dump his stock in Innate and avoid more than $500,000 in losses.
Collins then lied about the scheme when questioned by the FBI in April 2018, telling federal agents that his son sold his stocks because he was spooked by Innate’s trading halt.
Cameron Collins was sentenced to five years’ probation, while his future father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky, was sentenced to four years’ probation for his role in the scheme.