Former Special Counsel Scott Bloch faces up to six months in prison for withholding information from a House of Representatives committee, but federal prosecutors said this week the government is not opposed to a sentence of probation.
Bloch, who practices at Washington’s Tarone & McLaughlin, pleaded guilty in April to one count of criminal contempt of Congress for not disclosing the nature and extent of his instructions that a private company erase files from his government-issued computer and the computers of two other Office of Special Counsel employees.
The criminal charge stems from an interview Bloch gave in March 2008 with staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He was asked about what direction he gave the private company, Geeks On Call, to delete emails and files. Bloch answered that he did not “seek out” any erasure of files, according to court records.
Bloch resigned from his government post in late 2008. The Office of Special Counsel is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency that especially focuses on protecting federal employees who disclose government wrongdoing. The National Law Journal wrote here about the lack of leadership at the OSC.
“Indeed, Mr. Bloch, perhaps as well as anyone, should have known that the federal government cannot conduct proper investigations if witnesses intentionally and unlawfully withhold information pertinent to those investigations,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Leon of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in court papers filed July 13.
But prosecutors are not pushing for a prison sentence. Leon noted that Bloch accepted responsibility and has no criminal history. The prosecutor said Bloch faces the “likelihood of collateral punishment”—such as a sanction from the D.C. Bar.
Leon of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section said the government will not oppose a sentence of probation that comes with at least two conditions: a $5,000 fine and a requirement that Bloch completes 200 hours of community service.
“The government believes that such a sentence would … reflect the seriousness of the offense to which Mr. Bloch has pled guilty, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment for the offense and provide appropriate deterrent effect for similar criminal conduct in the future,” Leon wrote.
Contempt of Congress is a rare charge. There are only two other reported cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in the past 20 years, according to court records.
Bloch, represented by Winston & Strawn partner William Sullivan Jr. is scheduled to be sentence July 20 before Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. Sullivan was not immediately reached for comment this afternoon.