The saga that is the criminal prosecution of former Bush administration whistleblower attorney Scott Bloch is inching toward a final resolution.
Bloch pleaded guilty in Washington’s federal trial court on February 12 to the misdemeanor charge of destruction of government property. U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins set sentencing for May 13. The charge carries a maximum punishment of up to a year in jail. There is no mandatory-minimum term.
Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Counsel, faces a guideline sentence of probation to six months behind bars. That was the same guideline he faced in an earlier case — until a judge determined that the charge, contempt of Congress, carried a one-month mandatory minimum sentence. Bloch was charged in the earlier prosecution in 2010.
Bloch, who runs his own employment law practice in Washington, successfully backed out of his plea on the contempt charge in 2011, saying the judge, Deborah Robinson, failed to advise him, at the time of the plea, that he faced a minimum period of incarceration. Federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia didn’t fight Bloch as he attempted to terminate the agreement.
The government filed the new charge—destruction of property—against Bloch in December. The allegation stems from the same underlying event that was at the center of the contempt case—that Bloch directed the erasure of files on government computers in the special counsel’s office. The office advocates in the interest of federal employees. In the contempt case, Bloch was accused of withholding information from congressional investigators about the effort to delete computer files in his office.
Wilkins, who wasn’t involved in the earlier case against Bloch, told him today that he’s not bound to sentence Bloch in the zero to six-month guideline range. Wilkins has discretion, he said, to sentence Bloch up to a year in jail.
An assistant U.S. attorney, Glenn Leon, didn’t elaborate in court what sentence the government will recommend Wilkins impose. Bloch’s attorney, William Sullivan Jr., a white-collar defense partner in the Washington office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, also didn’t discuss in court what he will pitch to the judge as the appropriate discipline.
Sullivan and Leon, who was in court today with Deborah Connor, chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office fraud and public corruption section, will each get a chance to submit papers to Wilkins outlining the respective sentencing positions.
Wilkins at one point asked Bloch whether he’d read the terms of the plea agreement he negotiated with prosecutors. "Every word of it, several times," Bloch said.
Mike Scarcella can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.