Former Office of Special Counsel chief can withdraw guilty plea

Scott Bloch, the head of the government's independent whistleblower protection agency under President George W. Bush who admitted to criminal contempt of Congress, on Wednesday won the right to withdraw an earlier guilty plea.

Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that a federal magistrate judge who in March had sentenced Bloch to 30 days in jail had erred in not informing the defendant that he faced incarceration before he entered a guilty plea. Bloch later attempted to withdraw his plea and appealed to the district court.

In faulting the magistrate judge's ruling, Lamberth wrote: "The question here is not whether defendant was aware of the statute's provisions, but whether he understood that he faced one month of mandatory incarceration by pleading guilty. And as the record demonstrates, both defendant and the government believed that defendant could receive probation." [Emphasis is from the Judge's original.]

Scott Bloch ran OSC from 2004 through 2008, when he was ousted amid an investigation into allegations he misled Congress about using a computer repair firm to scrub files from his work computer. His tenure was beset with controversy over possible violations of the Hatch Act -- which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on the job -- and debates on whether he retaliated against whistleblowers and allowed his political views and moral objections to homosexuality to influence his pursuit of whistleblower complaints.

After Bloch's sudden firing, the office was run for more than two years by long-time OSC career official William Reukauf until the director's position was filled this April by Carolyn Lerner.

Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center, said the whistleblower community "wants Bloch in prison. We hope and expect the Justice Department will continue to prosecute and aggressively seek justice in this matter," he told Government Executive. "If they back down, it would be a travesty."

Joe Newman, director of communications for the Project on Government Oversight, says his group is not pushing for Bloch to go to jail, but "since he pled to an offence and indicated that he circumvented the rules, there should be some sort of punishment."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.