True to his word, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) mounted a vigorous defense against charges of insider trading. And then, Collins’ defense team vigorously filed a motion to change his plea in federal court this morning. The new plea will bring an end to Collins’ political career, but it remains to be seen if his retirement will include a stay at Club Fed:
Buffalo Congressman Chris Collins is expected to plead guilty Tuesday in connection with an insider trading case.
A notice Monday morning on the docket for the case in Manhattan Federal Court indicated a “change of plea hearing” for Collins at 3 p.m.
The Congressman’s was charged along with his son, Cameron Collins, and the father of his son’s ex-fiancée, Stephen Zarsky. They are also expected to plead guilty in a separate hearing. The trio were accused in Aug. 2018 of illegally dumping shares of a biotech company, saving them nearly $800,000 in losses.
The Buffalo News confirmed that Collins’ co-defendants plan to change their pleas as well. The big question will be which charges will still remain, and whether they will plead guilty or nolo contendere, or some other form of an Alford plea:
Moments after that docket entry was filed, a second appeared, indicating that Collins’ co-defendants – his son Cameron Collins and Cameron Collins’ prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky – plan to change their not-guilty pleas as well. A hearing in their case is set for Thursday. …
The court documents did not offer any additional details as to exactly how Collins and his co-defendants will change their pleas. It’s possible that they will plead guilty to some or all of the charges they are facing, but it’s also conceivable that they will plead guilty to lesser charges.
Lawyers for Rep. Collins did not immediately reply to phone calls Monday morning. Collins staffers did not immediately reply to emails questioning the change in the lawmaker’s plea.
For those who have not been following the case, be sure to take a look at the indictment to see what the feds have. They appear to have a pretty good paper trail as well as a half-dozen or so cooperating witnesses. Some of the cooperating witnesses are family members, which certainly made a “vigorous defense” more difficult to maintain. Collins insisted he was being set up, but the Ethics Committee had already been looking at his trading practices prior to the indictment, so the FBI wasn’t the only entity seeing smoke and suspecting a fire at the heart of it.
That allows for a reset in NY-27, a solidly Republican district (R+11 Cook index) that went for Donald Trump by 24 points in 2016. Collins easily won his election in the midterms, having first withdrawn and then re-entered when the GOP could not field a candidate. Collins’ conviction now will allow the local GOP to recruit stronger candidates to retain the seat, but it probably won’t take much. Even after his indictment and interrupted campaign, Collins still won 67% of the vote against Democrat Diane Kastenbaum, who could only muster a four-point improvement over the 2016 results from the previous Democratic challenger in 2016.
Update, 2:10 pm ET: Collins has made his departure official:
Republican Rep. Chris Collins of New York, accused of insider trading, has resigned, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Monday.
“We are in receipt of a letter of resignation. It will be laid down on the House Floor tomorrow during pro forma. Resignation will be effective at that time,” the spokesman told ABC News.
Will New York hold a special election to fill the seat at this point? Governor Andrew Cuomo and Pelosi don’t have much incentive to fill an empty seat in a bright-red district, especially with impeachment on the horizon.