October 12, 2018 / 1:11 PM / 5 days ago

U.S. Congressman Collins gets February 2020 trial date

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday set a Feb. 3, 2020 trial date for Christopher Collins, a Republican U.S. congressman from New York who was charged earlier this year with taking part in an insider trading scheme involving an Australian biotechnology company.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Chris Collins is interviewed during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela/File Photo

U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick set the date at a hearing in Manhattan federal court at which Collins himself was not present, but was represented by his legal counsel.

Prosecutors had sought a date next year. The 2020 date means the trial will not loom over the November elections, when Collins will seek another term in Congress. Non-partisan analysts have said that Collins is likely to win.

Collins’ son Cameron and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, are also defendants in the case. All three pleaded not guilty after they were charged in August. Christopher Collins said the charges were baseless.

Collins represents New York’s 27th Congressional District, which includes areas surrounding Buffalo and Rochester.

The criminal case relates to Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd, where Christopher Collins sat on the board and held a 16.8 percent stake.

Prosecutors said that in June 2017, while attending the congressional picnic at the White House, Collins learned in an email from Innate’s chief executive that a trial for its proposed secondary multiple sclerosis drug MIS416 had failed.

According to the indictment, Collins immediately called his son and told him the news. Cameron Collins in turn told his fiancée, her parents and a friend, and Zarsky went on to tip his brother, his sister and a friend, the indictment said.

Christopher Collins did not trade his own Innate stock, which lost millions of dollars in value, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said the congressman was “virtually precluded” from trading in part because he already faced a congressional ethics probe over Innate.

However, prosecutors said others used the insider information to avoid more than $768,000 in losses when Innate’s share price plunged 92 percent on news of the drug trial’s failure.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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