Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins to be sentenced Friday for insider trading; April 28 date set for special 27th District election

ALBANY — Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is set to be sentenced Friday after pleading guilty in October to insider trading charges. People from across the 27th Congressional District wrote letters to the judge in the case that has drawn national attention for months and left the district without a seat in Congress.

Meanwhile, a date for voters to pick Collins’ successor appears slated for April 28. Gov. Andrew Cuomo set the special election date to coincide with the presidential primary.

Canadice Town Supervisor Kris Singer, a Repubilcan whose Ontario County town is part of the district, said she supports filling the seat during the April presidential primary. This will ensure a large voter turnout and save taxpayers money, she said — by avoiding holding a separate election to fill the vacancy.

On Collins’ sentencing, Singer said she feels the former congressman should receive “no special consideration.” Collins “should be treated just like anyone else,” she said.

Prosecutors want Collins to spend nearly five years in federal prison. The U.S Probation Office recommended a year and a day in prison and a $200,000 fine. Collins' lawyers want no prison time and instead probation and home confinement. Collins has moved to Florida since leaving office.

"He has shown extreme remorse and already paid dearly for his crimes," his lawyers wrote in a court filing last week. "He has resigned from Congress in disgrace."

Letters from Collins’ former constituents call for everything from leniency to a tough stand. U.S. District Court Judge Vernon S. Broderick is set to sentence Collins Friday in Manhattan.

"I have never written a letter like this but I find it appalling on so many levels on what Collins has done to my district," wrote Linda C. Stevens, a retired registered nurse from Niagara County and a Republican. "I feel duped and angry!"

“We feel betrayed that Chris Collins misled and lied to the court and his electorate about his innocence, claiming that the charges of insider trading against him were meritless,” said a letter from Eric and Virginia Baker. “As a result of Mr. Collins’ selfish motives, he has abandoned his responsibility to his voters and denied our district due representation in Congress…”

“As an elected congressman, Chris Collins had the responsiblity to uphold the law and the constitution,” wrote Lynn Gatto, associate professor at the University of Rochester. “Instead, he used his position to enhance his own wealth … As a former Rochester City School District teacher for thirty-four year, I have watched many of my former students be sent to jail for victimliess crimes, really crimes that were committed for survival, and they have served far more time than Chris Collins seems to think he should serve. ... I urge you to sentence Chris Collins to the maximum sentence. He deserves it!”

Letters urging the judge to go soft included correspondence from family and associates in business and in Congress. They described a family man, intelligent and generous, whose behavior was uncharacteristic.

Collins’ wife, Mary Collins, asked the judge “to be merciful in your decision, taking into account all the pain and anguish our family and Chris has already endured over the past eighteen months ... He has resigned from Congress and will always be known as the disgraced former Congressman who pleaded guilty to a felony,” she wrote.

Colleagues who included U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, whose district neighboring the 27th includes part of Ontario County, pointed out Collins’ work such as with Families of Continental Flight 3407 to improve aircraft safety.

Bonnie Ross of Canandaigua, a Republican, who retired as director of Partnership for Ontario County, wrote she was grateful for Collins’ attention in battling the suicide and heroin epidemic. “He was always ready to listen and would provide letters of support for various grants and intiatives for which we were applying,” she wrote. Ross mentioned a recent visit to Washington D.C. by an advocate: Collins “stopped what he was doing and spent time to truly understand and to support the issues she shared. He remained responsive to future requests to his office …”

Ross called Collins “a man of substance and character in a time with too much division in our country.”

John Hurley, chairman of the Ontario County Democratic Committee, said he looks forward to the April 28 election.

The Democratic county committee leaders of the district have overwhelmingly thrown their support behind Nate McMurray, who narrowly lost to Collins in 2018. Republican leaders have yet to pick their candidate after several have said they seek their party’s spot on the ballot.

The 27th District comprises Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties and parts of Ontario, Monroe, Erie and Niagara. It includes the western half of Ontario County and its population centers of Canandaigua, Farmington and Victor.

Includes reporting by the USA TODAY Network