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Why did the feds drop 3 counts against Rep. Collins?

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WHEC) — One year ago, Congressman Chris Collins was swarmed by cameras and reporters as he walked out of the federal court building in Manhattan.

He had just been indicted on insider trading. Now, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York City dropped some of the charges against him.

Rep. Collins started the week facing nine counts. He’s down to six. And News10NBC worked to understand what this means.

Congressman Collins is accused of tipping off family members to sell stock in a drug company before the stock tanked. Collins was on the company’s board of directors. The feds say by tipping off his friends and family and selling stock when they did, Rep. Collins saved them three-quarters of a million dollars.

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: “Let’s start with the fact that some of the charges have been dropped.”

Peter Pullano, Tully Rinckey law firm: “Okay.”

Peter Pullano is an attorney at the Rochester firm Tully Rinckey. We go to him with questions like this.

Brean: “If that happened to your client, you would think what?”

Pullano: “It would be somewhat of a relief but it wouldn’t change much in the big picture. And I think that’s exactly what we have here. I don’t think for Congressman Collins the stakes got any lower by reducing any of the counts they did.”

Rep. Collins was indicted three months before last year’s election. He still went on to win.

According to the court filings, Rep. Collins and his attorney are using something called the “Speech and Debate Clause” defense.

Brean: “Can you explain what that means?”

Pullano: “It was originally set up to protect congress from tyrannical leaders in Britain is the real history and the United States adopted it.”

Pullano says it’s now used as a defense by members of congress to say they can’t be arrested or sued when they’re in office.

Pullano: “And the U.S. Attorney is now suggesting that by trimming down the indictment they’ve gotten rid of those counts that might have been dismissed pursuant to the Speech and Debate Clause.”

Rep. Collins’ office told our NBC affiliate in Buffalo that he’s not taking questions on this story. News10NBC emailed his attorney at 3 p.m. Wednesday. When we get a reply we will post the statement here.

Rep. Collins’ trial is supposed to start next spring, six months before he’s up for re-election again.

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