We aren't naive enough to think former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins will be ordered to serve time in prison when he's sentenced for his guilty plea on charges related to insider trading.
It has been all too often the case in this country that the standards of justice are different for people who ascend to greater wealth and have managed to make the "right" kinds of connections.
The former business owner and Republican from Clarence certainly fits the bill.
While his defense attorneys and his supporters have suggested that Collins comes to the court "humbled, penitent, and remorseful," we would note for the record that, prior to his plea, he was defiant and insistent upon his innocence; that he looked forward to his day in court where he would prove his case.
Under the very serious threat of prosecution, Collins did have his day in court — where he admitted that he was, in fact, guilty.
There's something to be said for Collins' otherwise clean record leading up to his plea deal.
However, the nature of the crime and the position of the person involved must be taken into account in this particular case.
Collins admitted to using information he obtained as a result of his position in Congress in an effort to protect the finances of himself and family members who may have suffered losses as a result of a poor investment.
The crime is bad enough. The violation of the public's trust is equally egregious, if not more so.
As a congressman, Collins occupied one of the highest offices in the land. He admitted in court to abusing the power of the position to protect his personal interests.
Undoubtedly, given his record, Collins would abide by the terms of a probationary sentence, which his defense attorneys and supporters say he deserves.
We can't help but wonder, however, if probation will do the trick.
Does Chris Collins the member of Congress, who frequently supported harsher punishments for criminals guided by the notion that they must pay for their crimes, deserve a lighter sentence for his own transgressions?
A probationary sentence in a case like this has the potential to send the wrong message to the next member of Congress who might think about abusing the power of this important post. Are those individuals less likely to offend knowing someone who committed a similar crime before them never saw the inside of a jail cell?
It stands to reason that in courtrooms across New York and other states today, somewhere, somebody who is not a former member of Congress will stand before a judge and be sentenced to incarceration for crimes far less severe, and involving smaller amounts of money and no abuse of the public's trust.
Failing to give Collins at least a few months behind bars to think about his actions reinforces the perception that in America there really is a different standard of justice for the wealthy, the connected, the political elite.