Updated 5:36 p.m.
A former George W. Bush administration lawyer who once faced jail time for contempt of Congress was charged today in a separate, related offense: destruction of government property.
The saga of Scott Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Counsel, spans several years. Bloch pleaded guilty in Washington federal district court in April 2010 to the misdemeanor contempt charge of contempt of Congress. Bloch, his lawyer and prosecutors settled on a deal for probation. But that agreement was never implemented.
A federal magistrate judge in Washington, Deborah Robinson, determined the contempt charge carries a one-month minimum mandatory jail sentence. Bloch wanted to end the deal, saying he was unaware of the jail penalty. When Robinson refused to allow him to withdraw the guilty plea, Bloch challenged the decision and successfully walked away from the case. No jail.
This afternoon, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, under a new case number, filed a misdemeanor charge of destruction of government property—at a value of under $1,000—stemming from Bloch's effort to erase files from work computers. In the contempt case, prosecutors had accused Bloch of not being forthright in an interview with congressional investigators about the effort to scrub data from government computers.
Bloch is likely to plead guilty to the property charge, which carries a potential punishment of up to a year in jail. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment about whether the office will support a sentence of probation. A hearing is scheduled for January 4.
Bloch's attorney, William Sullivan Jr., a partner in the Washington office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, wasn't immediately reached for comment this afternoon about the new charge.
Bloch runs a solo law office in Washington, concentrating on class actions and false claim suits against private companies. Bloch declined to comment this evening.
From 2003 to 2008, he was the top lawyer in the Office of Special Counsel, the unit that advocates for federal whistleblowers.
Prosecutors said in charging documents today that three computers in Bloch's office were rendered unusable after a "seven-level" file wipe was performed on them. The government said no data was recoverable from any of the computers after the "wipe" of files.
Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth last year reversed Robinson's decision not to let Bloch out of his plea deal.
Lamberth concluded that Robinson, at the time Bloch pleaded guilty, failed to inform him of the mandatory minimum one-month sentence for contempt. (Here's the charging document in for contempt.)
"On the basis of the record, the court finds that defendant—as both he and the government consistently have argued—believed that he could receive a sentence of probation when he pled guilty," Lamberth wrote.