By NEDRA PICKLER
WASHINGTON (AP) — The former government protector of whistle-blowers who admitted to criminally withholding information from Congress asked a judge Thursday to withdraw his guilty plea to avoid mandatory jail time.
Scott Bloch said in a court filing that he did not know when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal contempt of Congress 10 months ago that he would face a minimum of a month behind bars.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ruled two weeks ago that the law requires the imprisonment. Prosecutors joined Bloch in unsuccessfully protesting the ruling. They argued that others who have pleaded guilty to the charge got probation, including baseball star Miguel Tejada last year.
The prosecutors wrote in court papers that they are negotiating another deal with Bloch that would allow him to plead guilty to a different offense.
Bloch was the former U.S. special counsel, appointed by President George W. Bush to head the federal agency responsible for protecting the rights of federal workers and ensuring that government whistle-blowers are not subjected to reprisals.
But Bloch came under criticism for allegedly retaliating against his own employees and closing whistle-blower cases without investigating them. While he was under investigation for those allegations, Bloch had his government computer and those of two of his staffers wiped clean of information in December 2006 by a private computer repair company, Geeks on Call.
The House Reform Committee questioned Bloch about the computer scrub in March 2008, and he told them it was to address a problem that caused his computer to crash. Bloch admitted as part of his guilty plea that he withheld information from the congressional staff and that before he ordered the wipe of the computers he understood the procedure would make it virtually impossible to recover deleted files or e-mails.