* I’ve seen a lot of harrumphing since yesterday about the federal charges being dropped against former US Rep. Aaron Schock. “Didn’t he essentially commit the same crimes as former US Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.?” many have asked. Why, then, was J3 sent to prison and Schock allowed to walk free?
The answer boils down to how the two investigations/prosecutions were conducted.
* Jim Dey wrote a pretty good summary back in March of how this case crumbled…
Before it was over, the case was assigned to three different judges, and the original prosecution team of Tim Bass and Patrick Hansen was removed from the case by their superiors in Washington, D.C., for prosecutorial misconduct.
In fact, topsiders in D.C. removed all the federal prosecutors from the Central District from the case and replaced them with a new prosecution team from the Northern District in Chicago.
Although the case against Schock collapsed Wednesday, its impending doom was foreshadowed in September. That’s when Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Hayes, chief of the criminal division in the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office, said a new prosecution team under his supervision would “get to know the case and evaluate it” before making decisions on how to proceed.
It was that promised review of the evidence, two different grand-jury investigations and the indictment that failed to pass muster with the second group of prosecutors.
* This was a hardball prosecution from the beginning. From a Schock legal filing…
[The government] Recruited a staffer to be a confidential informant who covertly recorded Mr. Schock, a sitting Member of Congress, in his District Office and elsewhere; covertly recorded staff members represented by counsel; misrepresented himself as represented by the same attorney representing those staff members; attempted at the government’s direction to steal privileged documents; and covertly stole documents and more than 10,000 emails that were the personal property of Mr. Schock as a Member of Congress
All done without a warrant, mind you.
* More from that same filing about the confidential informant and federal tactics…
The government’s apparent obsession with Mr. Schock’s sexuality and whether or not he “dated” Karla Gonzalez was fueled from the very first conversation with the government’s confidential informant: “C/S [Confidential Source] did not know for sure Schock’s relationship status, but heard gossip that ‘something was going on’ with Shea Ledford. . . . C/S believed Schock’s ex-girlfriend Karla Gonzalez was not a ‘real girlfriend,’ and was a ‘beard.’” As with so many other things, the government’s CI was wrong. But that did not stop the government from trying to prove him right for the next two years.
Indeed, the government asked twelve additional witnesses questions on these topics. We have detailed below where the grand jury transcripts or government reports of interviews make clear that these topics were discussed with ten of those witnesses. But troublingly, it appears based on our own investigation that government reports for two other witnesses omit information regarding these types of inquiries.
They got into some really detailed questioning of witnesses on this topic. Click here to read it all.
* And then this happened…
The Schock case is complicated by the embarrassing admission, following emphatic denials, of possible obstruction of justice. The Acting U.S. Attorney finally admitted on 11 occasions, his attorney told the grand jury Schock “had failed to appear” before the grand jury (a defendant is not required to appear before a grand jury).
* The judge was furious…
The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former Rep. Aaron Schock leveled an unusual public complaint Tuesday that he was misled by a prosecutor on the case.
Judge Colin Bruce, of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, also ordered the prosecution to conduct a review of all its court filings in the matter for potential inaccuracies.
* The feds got him removed from the case…
…Bruce ordered the government to review all court filings in the case to determine whether they contained false or misleading claims. Furthermore, Bruce ordered that acting U.S. attorney Patrick Hansen, as opposed to Bass or anyone else, conduct the review.
It was an unusual step for a federal judge, and it didn’t sit well with Bass or others in the U.S. attorney’s office, according to a motion in an unrelated case filed last week by federal prosecutors. Lisa Hopps, a paralegal in the U.S. attorney’s office, saw Bruce’s order as “an unfounded personal attack” against Bass, according to last week’s filing made in response to a request for a new trial made by Sarah Nixon, who was convicted of international kidnapping in 2016 for taking her child to Canada during a custody dispute with the child’s father. Nixon is asking for a new trial based on improper emails exchanged between Bruce, the judge in her case, and employees in the U.S. attorney’s office.
Upset by Bruce’s criticism of Bass, Hopps told Bass about emails that she’d received from the judge nearly a year earlier during Nixon’s trial, when the judge in emails sent to Hopps critiqued the performance of prosecutors and assessed odds for acquittal. Such emails from judges, who are supposed to refrain from commenting on cases outside courtrooms, are considered improper.
* And then DC stepped in and removed the prosecutors…
The increasingly odd corruption case filed against former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock took another bizarre turn Thursday when local prosecutors were removed from the case by their superiors in Washington, D.C.
A few months later, the feds decided to drop all the charges against Schock in exchange for some reimbursements. It was the right decision.