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Critics Condemn Collins' Presidential Pardon; Former Colleague Defends It

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Former western New York Congressman Chris Collins has been released from a federal prison in Florida after President Donald Trump pardoned him Tuesday.

Collins is one of 15 people to get a presidential pardon. Five others had their sentences commuted.

Collins pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to the FBI.

The Republican helped his son and others avoid stock market losses when Collins learned that an Australian biotech company's drug trial had failed.

Former assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bruce said the presidential pardon means Collins is no longer a convicted felon and his civil rights are fully restored.

"He can vote; he can run for office, strangely enough," said Bruce. "All of those things are now back at his fingertips. He no longer owes any fines; he no longer owes any jail time."

But Bruce said the pardon does not take away SEC sanctions prohibiting Collins from serving on any corporate board.

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based progressive think tank Public Citizen, called Collins' pardon an example of one corrupt politician helping another corrupt politician.

She said it is a slap in the face to everyone who investigated the case, from federal prosecutors to the Office of Congressional Ethics and members of the House Ethics Committee.

"This just sends a message," Gilbert added, "that if you want to enrich yourself in the swamp of D.C., it's great to have Donald Trump as a friend."

Collins was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Collins' former colleague, Rep. Tom Reed, said Trump had the right to grant Collins' pardon.

The Southern Tier Republican said in a written statement that Collins' family has paid for the ex-congressman's transgression and justice has been served.