Politics

Ex-Speaker John Boehner calls lying former congressman Chris Collins 'good man' as defense requests no jail time in insider-trading case

Key Points
  • Former House Speaker John Boehner called disgraced former New York congressman Chris Collins a "good man" in a letter submitted as part of a bid to win him a no-jail sentence in an insider-trading criminal case.
  • Boehner and other past and present members of Congress wrote letters supporting their fellow Republican that were included in the sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday by the defense.
  • Collins in October pleaded guilty to tipping off his son Cameron about a failed drug trial by an Australian biotech company in which Collins was a leading investor and board member.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio performs a mock swearing in for Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington as the 113th Congress began.
Charles Dharapak | AP

Former House Speaker John Boehner called disgraced former New York congressman Chris Collins a "good man" in a letter submitted by Collins' lawyer as part of a bid to win him a no-jail sentence in his insider-trading criminal case.

Boehner was one of more than a dozen past and present Republican members of Congress to write letters supporting Collins that were included in the sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday by a defense lawyer.

But federal probation officials recommended that Collins, 69, should be sentenced to a year and a day in jail, along with a $200,000 fine, for his crimes of conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to FBI agents.

That or the no-jail term requested by Collins' attorney would be significantly less than the 45-to-57-month range suggested by federal guidelines. The former Buffalo-area representative is due to be sentenced Jan. 17 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Collins in October pleaded guilty to tipping off his son Cameron in a phone call from the White House lawn about the results of an Australian biotech company's failed drug trial before the test results became public. After the test was revealed, the stock price of the firm — in which Collins was a leading investor and board member — tanked by more than 90%.

Cameron Collins saved nearly $600,000 by dumping his stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics before the company disclosed the bad news in a press release. Chris Collins himself did not trade Innate stock after learning about the test results.

The younger Collins is due to be sentenced Jan. 23, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's fiancee, will be sentenced Jan. 24 in connection with his selling Innate stock after being tipped by Cameron to the bad test results.

Collins, who resigned his seat in Congress a day before pleading guilty, was the first congressman to endorse the candidacy of Donald Trump for the presidency.

Boehner's letter does not ask the judge for leniency in Collins' sentencing, but rather says it is submitted "simply in hopes of sharing my experience with Chris as a fellow American and friend."

Collins "is a family man who has a passion for his country, his wife, his children and grandchildren," Boehner wrote.

"Chris was my friend at times when he didn't have to be my friend, and I'm sure he took some political heat for supporting me as Speaker at a time when supporting me wasn't popular," Boehner wrote.

"As human beings, we make mistakes and errors of judgment, and we have to accept the consequences that come with our mistakes and our errors of judgment. Chris, I believe, would be the first to agree with this," wrote the former speaker.

"I know this experience has been mortifying for him," Boehner wrote. "I continue to believe he is a good man who loves his family and his country."

Collins' lawyer Jonathan New cited Boehner's comments in his court filing Tuesday, saying the ex-House speaker's letter "serves as a testament to [Collins'] character and his impact on those he worked closely with."

New submitted more than 100 other letters, some of which asked Judge Vernon Broderick to offer leniency to Collins.

The letters include ones from Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, Rep. Peter King of New York and Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina.

"Chris comes before the Court humbled, penitent and remorseful," wrote New, whose client for months after being arrested in August 2018 had falsely claimed he had done nothing wrong and who actually won re-election months after being indicted.

"He has paid a heavy price for his crimes," New wrote.

New also said that Collins is "now too ashamed to spend significant time in the [Buffalo-area] community he loves."

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