New charge filed against former Bush appointee

|
Local,Crime,Ben Giles

A new case has been filed against the former chief of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, who pleaded guilty to contempt of Congress in 2010 but then backed out of the plea after a judge ruled he must serve time in prison.

Scott Bloch, appointed by President George W. Bush as the head of the Office of Special Counsel, has sought for nearly two years to back out of a guilty plea he made in 2010, when he admitted to withholding information from a House oversight committee investigating an alleged order he gave to have a private computer company wipe data from four government computers.

One of the primary duties of the Special Counsel's Office is protecting federal government employees from blowback for whistleblowing. Bloch was under investigation for allegedly retaliating against employees in his own office who filed complaints of discrimination in the workplace.

The U.S. Attorney's Office filed an unopposed motion to dismiss the contempt charge against Bloch on Dec. 21 -- the same day prosecutors filed a new criminal information, a court filing that typically indicates a plea deal.

The new filing charges Bloch with injury to or depredation of government property. A conviction of the misdemeanor charge carries a sentence of up to one year behind bars, according to officials.

However, the new charge doesn't carry a mandatory prison sentence -- a judge ruled that the contempt of Congress charge carries a minimum of one month behind bars -- and would likely allow Bloch to avoid prison time if he pleads guilty.

Bloch is due in court Friday.

His initial attempts to withdraw his 2010 guilty plea were rejected by a U.S. magistrate judge, who ruled that Block should have been aware of the potential for prison time. Attorneys for Bloch argued he was unaware that he wasn't eligible for a sentence of probation and that had he known, he would not have pleaded guilty.

"Bloch was victim to a bait-and-switch that removed his inducement to plead guilty in the first place: the very real possibility of probation," his attorneys wrote in July 2011.

The decision to stop Bloch's efforts to withdraw his guilty plea were later overturned.

The former Bush appointee resigned from the Special Counsel's Office in 2008, after an FBI raid of his home and office earlier that year. Prosecutors argued Bloch ordered a "seven-level swipe" on several government computers, a procedure that prevents any email or other deleted files from being recovered from the devices.

Bloch then withheld information about his order in an interview with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to court documents.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment