Congressman Collins’ Potential Trial Defenses

Attorney Paul Cambria spoke to WBEN about the charges against Congressman Chris Collins and what a potential defense strategy could be in court. The full story is available on the WBEN website.

Notification of charges

WBEN asked Mr. Cambria how long Congressman Collins would have known that charges were pending against him. “They would have had to, through their attorneys, given him notice,” Mr. Cambria explained. “From time to time we do see a situation where there’s an investigation, attorneys for the defense are working with prosecution attorneys, like [President Trump’s attorney Rudy] Giuliani is now with [FBI Special Counsel Robert] Mueller,” he went on. Mr. Cambria told WBEN that, at a certain point in that investigation, the investigators will notify the defense attorneys that their client will be charged and “give them the courtesy of letting them walk in the door. That doesn’t happen all the time. It did happen here.”

Difficult to prove insider trading

Mr. Cambria explained that Collins’ charges of conspiracy dealing with insider trading may be difficult to prove. “Basically, what the government is saying is that he found out that there was going to be an event which would impact the company and then, before it became public, he communicated it and then, as a result of that, somebody took advantage of it—here his son and others—and sold their stock before the news became public,” he said. Mr. Cambria went on to say that it is possible that part of the defense will be that Collins never told anyone to sell anything and that he did not sell his own stock in the company. He later explained that it is likely that Collins’ attorneys will say that he was genuinely disappointed that the company’s drug tests for multiple sclerosis failed and that, if he had intended to pass on this information in order to engage in insider trading, Collins would have sold his own stock as well. “It may very well be true that in the end the jury says, ‘Well, he was just imparting the bad news to a fellow stockholder but he didn’t intend that they would act on it and commit a crime,’” Mr. Cambria explained.

When asked how that defense might play out in court, Mr. Cambria said that the prosecution may point out that Collins had to have known the information would cause an impact but that the crime requires that you impart information “with the intent that it’s used for insider trading.” He went on to say that the prosecution will be attempting to prove that Collins passed on the information with the intent that it be used for insider trading, but that proving this intent is often very difficult.

Family testimony at trial

WBEN then asked Mr. Cambria whether the other people potentially implicated in the case will be charged or if they will be testifying for the prosecution at the trial. Mr. Cambria explained that the other family members settled their civil case with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He told WBEN that it is likely that these family members will be required to become witnesses at the criminal trial and that they “will be called by the government to recount whatever their involvement was.”

About Paul J. Cambria, Jr.

The chair of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, Mr. Cambria advises clients on criminal trials, criminal appeals, constitutional and First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense. He divides his time between the firm’s offices in Buffalo and Los Angeles.