Former Special Counsel Scott Bloch pleaded guilty today in Washington to one misdemeanor charge of contempt of Congress for withholding information from a House oversight committee that was investigating his decision in 2006 to delete files from four government computers.
Bloch resigned from his post in late 2008 following an FBI raid earlier that year at his office in Northwest Washington and at his house in Virginia. Prosecutors said Bloch withheld information about a private company's removal of files from four government computers—two belonged to Bloch and the two others belonged to political aides—during an interview in March 2008 with staff from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Bloch pleaded guilty today in front of Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Winston & Strawn partner William Sullivan Jr. represented Bloch at the hearing. A Winston & Strawn associate, Ryan Sparacino, stood with Sullivan and Bloch at the podium during the hearing, which lasted about 45 minutes. Click here for the statement U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen issued today about the case.
Bloch's leadership of the Office of Special Counsel was not without controversy. Critics note the involuntary reassignment of 12 career employees from the District headquarters to field offices, and the critics allege Bloch dismissed whistleblower disclosures without investigation. Bloch hired a private company, Geeks on Call, to wipe clean four computers, according to prosecutors.
The contempt charge carries a maximum sentence of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, but the plea agreement (.pdf) said the applicable guideline range is up to six months and a fine no greater than $5,000. Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.
The lead prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Glenn Leon, did not indicate in court what sentence the government will recommend, and he did not divulge any motive for the deletion of the computer files.
The hearing went off without a hitch until Bloch objected to part of the prosecutor’s statement of the facts. Bloch said he would be “less than truthful” if he agreed that everything in the government’s proffer was factually accurate.
Bloch said he had no recollection regarding one of the four computers that Leon said had been wiped clean. Bloch and his lawyer conferred for a minute before returning to the podium. Bloch then conceded to the facts the government presented.
Bloch, who practices employment law at Washington’s Tarone & McLaughlin, was released today on his own recognizance. If he wants to leave the District, he must report his travel plans to a probation officer. Bloch and his attorney declined to answer questions after the hearing, including their position on appropriate punishment.
“Glad this matter is behind us, and Mr. Bloch is looking forward to getting on with his life,” Sullivan said as he walked Bloch to the probation office on the second floor of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in downtown Washington.