NEW YORK (WIVB) – Of the more than 100 people to write letters in support of Chris Collins, the former CEO of Innate Immunotherapeutics may have used the most interesting language to describe the events that led to the downfall of the former congressman.
“I can only think that he had something akin to a ‘brain explosion’ upon learning of the completely unexpected clinical trial results,” wrote Simon Wilkinson, who served as Innate’s top boss for 15 years, until June 2019.
The letter was included in a sentencing memorandum filed by Collins’ attorneys in federal court on Tuesday. The filing included a request for probation when Collins is sentenced on January 17th.
Collins pleaded guilty in October to two charges related to the insider trading case federal prosecutors filed against him. He admitted he tipped his son, Cameron, off to a clinical drug trial that had failed involving an Innate drug in June 2017.
Collins served on the Australian company’s board of directors and was a major investor, holding 16.8 percent of its stock, according to prosecutors. Upon learning of the trial’s failure, Collins admitted he called Cameron, who also owned stock in the company, and shared the news. The tip allowed several people, including Cameron and his future father-in-law, to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors alleged in the indictment Collins pleaded guilty to.
“I am at a complete loss to explain or understand why he did what he said,” Wilkinson wrote to Judge Vernon Broderick. “Mr. Collins has written to me saying his actions were stupid, rash, and inexcusable.”
Wilkinson also wrote about Collins’ history with Innate, claiming that he twice saved the company from failure with his investments.
Michael Quinn, who served as Innate’s chairman of the board at the time, also wrote on Collins’ behalf.
Quinn wrote, “Chris’ uncharacteristic emotional reaction has blackened the reputation of a man who has done so much for his community in Upstate New York.
“Your honor, as you ponder sentencing, may I request that you give consideration to Chris’ terrible reversal of personal circumstances and weigh his natural emotional, but erroneous response to bad news.”
Several local Republican officials also submitted letters to the judge, including strategist Michael Caputo, Southern Tier Congressman Tom Reed, State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
“When (considering sentencing), please weigh the good deeds done over many years of public service,” Mychajliw requested of the judge.
Collins resigned his congressional seat in October, the same day he pleaded guilty. Probation officers have recommended he spend a year and a day in prison, according to the defense’s sentencing memo.
On Wednesday, several other letters which were sent directly to Broderick’s chambers were publicly filed. Many of the writers live in the 27th Congressional District, and oppose leniency for Collins.
“Please give him a serious sentence, as he broke trust with us and brought shame to his office,” wrote Cynthia Lankenau.
Nate McMurray, the former Grand Island Town Supervisor who ran against Collins for his seat in 2018, also sent Broderick a letter.
“(W)ith his re-election predicated on an admittedly false claim of innocence, I urge that in sentencing, you recognize this fraud on the taxpayers of this nation and the people of New York’s 27th Congressional District,” McMurray wrote.
McMurray went on to ask the judge to require Collins to repay his salary from the date of his indictment until his resignation and forfeit his pension.