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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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