In another attempt to dismiss charges against former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), the ex-congressman’s lawyers on Tuesday accused federal prosecutors of inappropriately asking witnesses about his romantic relationships and sexuality.
Schock’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against him that alleged prosecutorial misconduct, arguing that by quizzing witnesses on Schock’s sexuality, the prosecutors could have shaped the opinions of witnesses and members of a grand jury.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois declined to comment to TPM.
Schock, best known as the “Downton Abbey” congressman, was indicted in November 2016 on 24 counts, including improper use of campaign funds. In the filing submitted Tuesday, his lawyers claimed that prosecutors made “false, misleading, and erroneous statements” about Schock to witnesses in front of a grand jury and otherwise. They alleged that prosecutors intimidated one witness, threatened another, and quizzed witnesses on Schock’s sexuality without an apparent reason for doing so.
“The government has investigated nearly every facet of Mr. Schock’s professional, political, and personal life. This even includes his sex life,” Schock’s lawyers wrote. “It is no secret that there has long been speculative gossip in the media about Mr. Schock’s sexual orientation. For no apparent reason, the government has felt itself compelled to investigate this too.”
They charged that the federal government “discussed with witnesses whether Mr. Schock is gay, whether he ‘really’ dated his ex-girlfriend (a highly-accomplished diplomat and attorney), and whether he spent the night or shared hotel rooms with her.”
“The government’s inquiries into Mr. Schock’s sexuality and romantic relationships were not just distasteful and offensive. They were prejudicial,” his lawyers wrote.
They added that some of the questions to witnesses were in front of the grand jury, “thus potentially prejudicing Mr. Schock through salacious innuendo.” Schock’s lawyers argued that the questions could have influenced witnesses’ and jury members’ opinions of Schock, and that the questions “reveal the government’s malicious intent to impugn Mr. Schock’s character.”
The lawyers claimed that prosecutors asked 12 witnesses about Schock’s love life and sexuality. Several of those witnesses speculated about whether Schock is gay or mentioned rumors that he is gay, according to transcript excerpts included in the filing.
The excerpts also show that prosecutors asked witnesses about Schock’s relationship with one particular woman, including whether the two stayed in the same hotel room on a trip. It’s not clear in most instances that prosecutors asked about Schock’s sexuality specifically; but in one excerpt, after a witness mentioned rumors that Schock is gay, a prosecutor followed up to ask if those allegations were true.
The ex-congressman has been aggressively fighting the corruption charges against him. In March, his lawyers accused federal investigators of breaking the law by turning a Schock staffer into a confidential informant and using that informant to get information the prosecutors could not obtain otherwise. After a judge denied their request for documents on federal investigators’ use of the informant, Schock’s lawyers then sought to dismiss the case in April by arguing federal prosecutors had violated the Constitution’s provisions on the separation of powers.
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