Former Special Counsel Scott Bloch pled guilty earlier this year to one count of criminal contempt of Congress. He was due to be sentenced on Wednesday, but it was delayed so that the magistrate judge can decide whether there is a minimum one-month mandatory jail term. The statute (2 U.S.C. Section 192) says a person “shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 nor less than $100 and imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.”
Bloch and the government both claim that the plea deal reached was based on a sentence of probation, a fine and community service. The prosecutors are not seeking jail time. The court is not bound by the plea deal, but if the judge rules that there is a minimum one-month sentence, Bloch could move to withdraw his plea deal.
Bloch’s job as the head of the Office of Special Counsel was to protect federal employees from prohibited personnel practices – meaning he was supposed to protect the whistleblowers. Instead, he illegally scrubbed files from office computers while he was under investigation by the inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management for improperly retaliating against former employees.
I have a hard time understanding why prosecutors are working so hard to protect a man who disgraced an office designed to protect whistleblowers. Prosecutors had no problem asking for jail time for the largest international tax whistleblower ever, Bradley Birkenfeld.
As NWC Executive Director Stephen Kohn, so aptly put it: “This is not a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop. This is a case of the fox pleading guilty to murdering the chickens. Scott Bloch’s actions have cost taxpayers billions of dollars in the misuse of monies, and have cost countless whistleblowers their reputations and careers.”
The Office of Special Counsel is still without a leader. President Obama should immediately appoint an aggressive, competent, independent whistleblower advocate who will have the courage to take on the bureaucracy and demand accountability. It is time for someone who will change the culture of the OSC and stand behind the whistleblower. You can send President Obama your own letter requesting a new OSC by clicking here.
"Plea agreement for ex-special counsel in limbo" Government Executive, Sept. 8, 2010
"No Sentence Yet for Disgraced Bush Lawyer" The Blog of Legal Times, Sept. 8, 2010