Prosecutors: It’s time for ex-congressman to go to prison

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors urged a judge Wednesday to reject an effort to delay or eliminate a prison sentence for the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president.

Federal prosecutors said in a letter that it’s time for Christopher Collins to report to a Pensacola, Florida, prison camp to begin serving a 26-month sentence.

The 70-year-old former New York congressman representing a district between Buffalo and Rochester was sentenced in January after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to law enforcement.

Prosecutors said he fed inside information about a biotechnology company to his son so his son and friends could avoid $800,000 in stock losses when a failed drug trial was announced. An indictment said Collins obtained the secrets in an email from the chief executive of Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. while Collins was attending the Congressional Picnic at the White House on June 22, 2017. Collins sat on the company’s board.

Lawyers for the Republican last week cited the coronavirus in asking a judge to delay when he reports to prison or to modify his sentence.

The virus “continues to rage in Florida,” they said, and Collins’ age and health condition put him at great risk of serious or life-threatening complications if he contracts it.

But prosecutors said the threat of COVID-19 is higher outside the prison walls than within. And they noted that they had agreed three times before to let Collins delay reporting to prison, including in April and May when they said it was less clear that the Bureau of Prisons could control the spread of the virus.

Now, prosecutors said, FPC Pensacola, where Collins will be housed, appears to be controlling the coronavirus much better than Collier County, Florida, where Collins resides.

They said the infection rate in Collier County is about 3.4% of the overall population, while the infection rate in the prison is zero.

They also said his asthma and hypertension, cited by the ex-congressman’s lawyers as underlying health conditions that make him more vulnerable to a serious illness if he contracts the virus, were well controlled for a man who is “in good health overall,” according to his physician.

To support their argument, prosecutors cited a ruling by a Manhattan federal judge who ordered 76-year-old Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and former New York Assembly speaker, to report to prison to begin a 6 1/2-year stint behind bars for a corruption conviction. Silver began his sentence in August.

“The public has an interest in seeing justice done in this case without further delay. It is time for Collins to begin his prison sentence,” prosecutors wrote.

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