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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Bush Appointee Loses Bid to Withdraw Guilty Plea

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge on Thursday delayed sentencing again for the former head of the federal whistle-blower protection office, one day after refusing to let Bush appointee Scott Bloch withdraw his guilty plea to the charge that he tried to undermine a congressional investigation of him.

Bloch, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as special counsel for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, was removed from office in October 2008 amid congressional and federal corruption inquiries. When Bloch took office, he created controversy by stating that gay and lesbian employees could not be protected from discrimination.

Amid speculation that Bloch made it an OSC policy to not act on gay discrimination complaints and retaliated against ideological opponents in the office, prosecutors say he ordered private techs in 2006 to "scrub" computer files referring to workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bloch has repeatedly blocked sentencing attempts while challenging the court's attempt to impose the minimum sentence the charge to which he pleaded carries.

Despite Bloch's deal with prosecutors, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ruled on Feb. 8 that Bloch had to serve at least one month in prison.

The maximum penalty under the statute is a year-long prison term and a fine of $100,000.

Prosecutors declined to contest Bloch's motion to withdraw the plea or the motion to delay sentencing, Robinson noted. In the government's reply to the plea motion, it called Bloch's attempt "well-founded" because Bloch "had no understanding that he faced one month of mandatory incarceration by pleading guilty."

In his motion to withdraw the plea, Bloch says he thought the charge was probation-eligible and would not have pleaded guilty if he had "been informed" of the mandatory jail term.

"The court finds that any suggestion that defendant - a lawyer represented by retained counsel - did not read the statute which contained both the offense to which he decided to plead guilty, as well as the penalties upon conviction of said offense, would defy credulity," Robinson wrote.

Sentencing was supposed to occur on Thursday after repeated delays, and the judge expressed frustration last month at the parties' foot-dragging. Still, she granted Bloch's latest motion for "a brief continuance" so that he can review the court's rejection of an earlier motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

The latest date set for Bloch's sentencing is March 17.

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