Former Rep. Chris Collins, who was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison in January for insider trading, will have his surrender date pushed back yet again due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Republican is set to report to FPC Pensacola on Aug. 18 to serve his 26-month sentence. The facility is a minimum security prison camp in Florida — about a nine-hour drive from his home in Marco Island, where his neighbor is former Speaker John A. Boehner.
Collins was originally scheduled to report to prison on March 17, then it was delayed to April 21, then to June 23. U.S. District Court Judge Vernon S. Broderick granted the most recent request by Collins to delay his prison start date on May 29.
Collins is 69 years old and has additional risk factors, making him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, his lawyers argued. They also noted the Bureau of Prisons reports almost 5,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 64 deaths among prisoners, numbers the attorneys say are “almost certainly 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,” attorneys for the former congressman wrote.
Collins’ lawyers also mention that as a minimum security facility, FPC Pensacola may not be able to properly accommodate prisoners who may have the coronavirus and note that the BOP has sought delayed reporting: “Some BOP minimum security camps do not have restrictive housing that would be necessary for a quarantine, local municipal or county jails are the only available option for housing an inmate who voluntarily surrenders with possible COVID-19 exposure. Unfortunately, many local jails are refusing to admit such inmates at this time.”
One inmate at Collins’ future prison, Billy Walters, 73, was released early and will serve out the rest of his five-year sentence on house arrest. He was slated to be in prison until February 2022 for insider trading. Lawyers for Collins argue Walters’ “early release appears to be based largely on his age and the particular vulnerability of the elderly population.” Walters’ case drew headlines because he was linked to golfer Phil Mickleson, who settled a civil case with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Collins served on the board of directors for Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotechnology company, the success of which was largely dependent on the progress of MIS416, a drug designed to treat a form of multiple sclerosis. The drug failed a clinical trial, passage of which was required for the company to commercialize the drug and profit from it.
On June 22, 2017, while he was at the White House attending the annual Congressional Picnic, Collins received an email from Innate’s CEO saying the drug failed, information that meant the stock would plummet. At that time, Innate had not publicly released the results and Collins, using this insider knowledge, called his son, Cameron, to alert him of the confidential news so Cameron and others close to the family could unload their shares of Innate to avoid losses. When Innate publicly announced the trial failure of MIS416, the stock price dropped 92 percent.
Those who were tipped off by Collins avoided $768,000 in losses, although the former congressman did not trade his shares and lost millions. Collins could not trade his shares because they were still held by a transfer agent in Australia.
Another former Republican congressman-turned-felon, Duncan Hunter of California, will report to prison months later than his May report date because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hunter misused over $150,000 in campaign funds and will begin his 11-month sentence in January of 2021.
Capitol Police report two arrests
The Capitol Police made two arrests this past week: one for unlawful entry and one for defacing government property, according to their weekly report from May 28-June 3. On June 2, an officer saw two people “writing graffiti with a black permanent marker on the Monument located at Peace Circle.” They were both arrested.