Updated 3:50 p.m.
Federal prosecutors in Washington are trying to salvage a plea deal in the government's case against Scott Bloch, whose punishment arrangement with the government called for probation instead of jail.
In a court filing today, prosecutors urged a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to reconsider her ruling last week that the charge of lying to Congress carries a one-month mandatory minimum jail sentence.
Bloch pleaded guilty in April to contempt of Congress for lying about his effort to erase files from government computers. His sentencing has been repeatedly continued amid the judge’s close examination of the history of the rarely-used statute.
Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson’s ruling threatens the plea deal Bloch arranged with prosecutors. Last week, Robinson said the charge carries a one-month mandatory minimum jail term. Bloch’s lawyers at Winston & Strawn and prosecutors both insisted that Robinson had discretion to sentence Bloch to probation.
An assistant U.S. attorney, Glenn Leon, said in the court filing today [.pdf] that a sentence of probation is always permitted unless there is language that expressly prohibits a non-jail sentence. Leon points to a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the government did not earlier provide to Robinson.
Bloch and his lawyers, including Winston partner William Sullivan Jr., appeared in court this afternoon for the sentencing hearing. Robinson, however, did not sentence Bloch.
Instead, she asked Leon and Sullivan to provide more paperwork justifying the basis for the government's motion to reconsider the sentencing ruling. Sullivan said in court today he plans to support the prosecution's motion urging Robinson to change her mind.
Also, Robinson wants the lawyers to examine whether the notion that probation is always permitted unless there is stated otherwise has since been abolished. Robinson set Bloch's sentencing hearing for March 10.