Scott Bloch, the former Bush administration official who pleaded guilty to using Geeks On Call to scrub his computer while under investigation for retaliating against his employees, has just had his month-long jail sentence overturned.
Bloch pleaded guilty to misdemenor contempt of Congress in February 2010, which carried a sentence of “not less than one month nor more than twelve months” in jail, according to statute. As TPM reported in July, Bloch’s lawyers had worked out a plea deal that would keep him out of prison.When U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson sentenced him to the mandatory minimum time, one month in prison, Bloch claimed he wasn’t made aware of the mandatory sentence before pleading guilty. Bloch attempted to appeal the ruling in March, but Robinson held firm, saying he “was cognizant of the full extent of the provisions of the statute.”
Bloch then appealed her ruling to Judge Royce Lamberth, the chief of the U.S. District Court in Washington, who sent the case back to Robinson on Wednesday with the guilty plea reversed.
According to court filings, Bloch undisputedly read the statute before pleading guilty to it.
“That said, the Court finds it surprising that none of the attorneys in this case–neither those for the government, nor those for defendant–questioned such precedent upon reading the statute. This is, at bottom, a situation in which lawyering has fallen short,” the decision reads.
“Again, however, the relevant question is what defendant believed when he pled guilty, however inexplicable that belief.”
Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.