Legal experts who are familiar with the indictment against Rep. Chris Collins interpret his public insistence that he “intends to clear his name” as an indication that he is planning to testify against his son, Cameron Collins, age 25.
The damning indictment brought by Geoffrey Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Collins passed private information to his son, who then divested himself and his prospective in-laws of their equity positions in Innate Immunotherapeutics days before the firm’s value would drop 94%.
Collins sits on the board of the firm and was its largest shareholder. Upon receiving word that the firm’s experimental drug treatment for multiple sclerosis had failed, Collins phoned his son seven times in five minutes. Cameron then notified his in-laws, who divested themselves of their positions in the firm that night. Cameron divested his own $570,000 position before 8:00 am the next morning.
Local legal experts are stunned at the soundness of the prosecution’s case against the congressman, who could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. If convicted on all counts, he may receive a sentence as little as six years time.
His most obvious defense — that he told his son not to sell his shares, and that he had no knowledge of his son’s actions — would likely put his son in federal prison for several years. In the court of public opinion, however, that eventuality is unlikely to entirely clear Collins’ name. Many voters would question the values of a man who would have his son take the fall.
Many are speculating whether or not Cameron would be cunning enough to cut a plea deal with federal prosecutors before his father testifies. They posit that he would never flip on his father — risking his share of a potentially $200 million inheritance would be nonsense and worth a few years in federal prison, they surmise.
Local Republican operatives are furious that Collins is refusing to step aside. They privately concede that the district is now a toss-up and that Nate McMurray, despite holding policy views that are noticeably to the left of the district, is likely to defeat Collins if he refuses to step aside.
Many suspect that Collins may be intending to barter a resignation in exchange for a plea deal that includes only brief jail time, probation, and restitution. On that assumption, many local Republicans are willing to hold their tongue for the moment.
Senator Rob Ortt, attorney Todd Aldinger, and party chairman Nick Langworthy are being floated to replace Collins long-term. The three men are widely seen as having the resumes, drive, and savvy to become Speaker of the House in ten or twenty years’ time.