Former Special Counsel Sentencing Postponed Again

Today, Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia postponed Scott Bloch’s sentencing once again until Thursday, March 10, 2011. Prosecutors urged the judge to reconsider her ruling last week that the charge of lying to Congress carries a one-month minimum jail sentence.

Scott Bloch was the former head of the Office of Special Counsel. He pled guilty in April to contempt of Congress for lying about his effort to erase files from government computers. Bloch withheld information from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the Bush administration. Federal investigators charged him, the nation’s former top protector of whistleblowers, with criminal contempt of Congress.  

His sentencing has been continuously postponed because his charge is rare and a verdict has been difficult to determine. Last week, in her 13-page ruling Judge Robinson declared that the dispute was a novel one with no published opinion on what the sentencing for contempt of Congress is.

Bloch’s attorneys at Winston & Straw and the government’s attorney argued that Judge Robinson had discretion to sentence Bloch to probation. Bloch’s attorneys had worked out a deal that would require probation, a fine, and community service. Judge Robinson stated that she had not found any authority to support the lawyers’ argument that the sentencing provision is discretionary.

Assistant U.S. attorney Glenn Leon said in today’s court filing that a sentence of probation is always permitted unless there is language expressly prohibiting a non-jail sentence. Leon cited a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to Judge Robinson.

Robinson asked Leon and Bloch’s attorneys to provide more evidence justifying the government’s motion to reconsider the sentencing ruling. Bloch’s attorneys plan to support the prosecution’s motion urging Judge Robinson to change her mind and allow Bloch to avoid jail.

*Sabeen Khanmohamed (a NWC intern) contributed to this posting

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