According to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, when you plead guilty to a crime, “if there is a mandatory minimum sentence that you be advised of it,” says Debra Roth, a partner with Shaw, Bransford and Roth.
Normally, this isn’t much of an issue, but when former head of the Office of Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal contempt of Congress, it seems no one involved in the case really knew there would be a mandatory 30 day prison sentence.
Now, Roth explained to Federal News Radio, Bloch has asked the court to be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and start the case all over again.
Bloch, his attorneys, and the government, said Roth, “took the position back in April when he pled guilty that there was no mandatory minimum.” At the core of it, said Roth, “that’s why he pled guilty to it: because he thought he would do probation and not go to jail.”
Now, in asking for the court to withdraw his plea, said Roth, “obviously Mr. Bloch does not want to spend any time in jail,” and will have to find another deal to plead to or go to trial.
Of course spending 30 days in a federal prison is no joy ride, but a more lasting reason to change his plea and consider fighting the case at trial is the possibility of losing his license to practice law.
Because the U.S. Attorney in the case has already stated they don’t oppose the withdrawl of Bloch’s plea, Roth said it’s “probably a foregone conclusion. To me the more interesting next step is what’s going to happen next. Are they really going to trial…or are they going to try to find another offense to plead to.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-9 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.