Attorney Barry Covert was in WGRZ’s studio to provide legal analysis as news broke on the sentencing of former Congressman Chris Collins for insider trading.
Chris Collins was first indicted on a series of insider trading charges in August 2018. After claiming his innocence for over a year, Collins plead guilty to charges in October 2019. On Friday, January 17th, a judge in a Manhattan court room sentence Chris Collins to 26 months in prison.
WGRZ 2 On Your Side had live coverage of the sentencing, which included legal analysis by Barry Covert. Continue reading this post for Barry Covert’s comments and click on the videos below to watch the full report, which includes the interview with Barry Covert.
Overview of Sentencing
WGRZ anchor Maryalice Demler asked attorney Barry Covert for his thoughts on the sentencing of Chris Collins. Mr. Covert stated “I thought that Chris Collins really saved the day. His comments to the court, where he said I have no one to blame but myself. He took full responsibility for ruining his son’s life, for ruining his family, for harming his constituents, for harming the boy scouts, he can never be a boy scout again, his son can never be a boy scout again. And especially when he said, judge save your leniency, not for me, but for my son. That’s what judges want to hear. The judge had a real problem with the legal papers that were submitted by his lawyers and they caused the judge to say, I really want to address these issues. Such as saying that your congressional district was not harmed, I believe it was because they are unrepresented right now. Saying that it was just a passion of the moment to make this lie up, yet ten months later you lied to the FBI again, so it wasn’t just a sudden mistake. So, Chris was able to put all that behind him and really tell the judge, I’m taking responsibility, and was very emotional about it. And I think he really saved himself, he hopefully got a lower sentence because of that.”
Sentencing Guidelines vs. Probation Department Recommendation
The interview continued with a question regarding the disparity between sentencing guidelines and a recommendation from the probation department. Barry Covert explained “Really an unbelievable disparity that I don’t think Tom or I have ever seen, certainly never in Buffalo. So the probation department is tasked with making a recommendation after they do a full investigation of the character background of the defendant, the instant offense, all other relevant conduct in his life. And then they make a recommendation to the court as to what the sentence should be. So, the agreed upon between the prosecution and the defense in the plea agreement, the agreed upon time was forty-six at the low end, fifty-seven at the high end, and that was the recommended sentencing range under the sentencing guidelines. The probation department though issued a recommendation of one year and one day, which by adding 1 day even brings it down to less than a year that he would serve.”
Anchor Maryalice Demler pointed out that there was a lot of outcry about that and people were really upset because that seemed like a slap on the wrist. Mr. Covert replied “I’ve never seen that. That was remarkable. The probation department was essentially recommending one-fourth of the sentencing guidelines. Now, there has been recent legislation that we should consider for elderly defendants, less incarceration. But one-fourth was remarkable and it really set a table of expectations that I think that the judge really had to go through the paces and show the public why he was not going to follow that recommendation.”
When asked if the probation department recommendation was the reason why the judge went extra steps in explaining what his process was in deciding on the sentence, Barry Covert stated “I think so. I think he even said that when he said that he was concerned about the perception of all these people who wrote letters. I also think that it was caused in part by the lawyers for Collins saying some things that made it appear as though he was not taking full responsibility, he was blaming the situation, claiming that it was just an instant moment of a mistake. But yet, 10 months later he lied to the FBI.”
A Message to People in Power
In a subsequent interview, WGRZ reporter Jackie Roberts asked Barry Covert if he thinks this sentence send a strong enough message to other people in power. Mr. Covert stated “I think without a doubt. It’s a very balanced sentence.” He went on to say “I think Chris Collins really saved the day himself when he really fell on the sword and took full responsibility”
When asked if the sentence could have been different had the lie ended sooner in this case, Barry Covert said “Absolutely. I think that if Chris had come forward sooner and said you know I really made a mistake my stocks. Either that night told the son don’t do it or even after they did it if he would have tried to correct it and stepped up and taken responsibility it may well have stayed a civil matter.”