Federal prosecutors will not oppose a sentence of probation for a former George W. Bush administration lawyer who's charged in Washington with the destruction of government property.
Prosecutors in December charged Scott Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Counsel, with the misdemeanor crime of destruction of property for his role in deletion of files from government computers.
The charge carries a guideline range of probation to six months in jail. Prosecutors said Monday in a sentencing memo, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, that the government will not challenge a sentence at the lowest end of the range.
If Bloch is sentenced to probation, prosecutors asked for two conditions: a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service. Bloch, who practices in employment law in Washington, pleaded guilty to the charge in February.
The destruction of property charge is rooted in the deletion of files on government computers in the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency whose mission is "to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing." Three computers were rendered unusable after the data "wipes," prosecutors said.
Bloch was nominated in 2003 to run the Office of Special Counsel, a position he held for five years.
"During the time that Mr. Bloch held this significant position of public trust, he willingly damaged federal property by ordering that three computers belonging to the United States be wiped in such a manner to make it virtually impossible for anyone ever to recover any data from those computers," said Deborah Connor, chief of the fraud and public corruption section at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington. "This breach of the public trust should not be treated lightly."
Prosecutors noted in their papers that Bloch "will suffer the consequences attendant to any criminal conviction." Connor said the collateral consequences include the "possibility of sanctions with state bar office."
In a sentencing memo filed yesterday, Bloch's defense lawyer, William Sullivan Jr., a partner in the Washington office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, asked U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins to sentence Bloch to a year of probation.
Sullivan requested the judge impose a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service—100 hours less than what prosecutors recommended.
"Other than his involvement in the present matter, Mr. Bloch has led an exemplary life," Sullivan wrote. "This case marks an unfortunate aberration for Mr. Bloch."
Sullivan asked Wilkins to "consider the tortuous legal odyssey Mr. Bloch has navigated" in determining the appropriate punishment.
Prosecutors initially charged Bloch in 2010 with contempt of Congress, a misdemeanor. The government agreed to a sentence of probation. The crime was rooted in the same conduct as the new charge.
A federal magistrate judge, Deborah Robinson, determined the crime carries a one-month mandatory jail term. Bloch successfully withdrew his plea, forcing prosecutors to start over. The government settled on the property destruction offense.
Bloch "has had to endure the stresses, both personal and financial, of his conduct for far longer than should have been required," Sullivan said. "He has paid a far higher price personally and financially than any misdemeanor defendant could ever expect."
Wilkins is scheduled to sentence Bloch on May 13.