Jim Dey: Feds respond to Schock's shots with their own volley

Jim Dey: Feds respond to Schock's shots with their own volley

Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock recently filed a lengthy legal motion complaining that the federal mole working on his staff not only betrayed his trust but also violated his rights by stealing office files and improperly attempting to elicit incriminating information during tape-recorded conversations.

Late Tuesday, government lawyers filed an equally aggressive response that argued Schock has no legal grounds to complain and is not entitled to further information from government files as his July 10 trial date at the federal courthouse in Urbana approaches.

Dismissing Schock's argument with the title of a famous Frank Sinatra song, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Bass quoted legal precedents suggesting that "betrayal by an informer ... is probably inherent in the conditions of human society."

"In other words, that's life," Bass wrote, quoting both United States v. Jenkins and the title of the iconic crooner's chart topper.

The government's motion suggested that Schock's effort to win a dismissal of the wide-ranging indictment against him or the suppression of evidence improperly seized is without merit, the product of a desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for his criminal conduct.

Using phrases like "inflammatory rhetoric," "blunderbuss demand" and "increasingly aggressive search for some governmental misconduct claim," prosecutor Bass argued that Schock "has not made even a preliminary showing" of wrongdoing by investigators or former Schock office manager and government informant Bryan Rudolph.

Schock's motion included quoted excerpts of Rudolph's conversational efforts to elicit incriminating information in his recordings with Schock and office employees. The government responded by including several excerpts of Schock's comments, including one in which he advised Rudolph on how to answer prosecutor questions in front of a grand jury.

"When you go into a grand jury, it's 'yes,' 'no' or 'I don't remember.' ... Because anything you say, they'll get you to lie to a grand jury. ... What they try and do is trip up the witness, trip up guys like you who have nothing to lose," Schock was quoted as saying.

The government's motion stated that it "may present one or more" of the Schock recordings at trial. It said it "does not intend to present in its case-in-chief any of the recordings with other staff members when defendant Schock was not present, unless needed for impeachment."

The government also revealed the existence of a heretofore unknown second mole, an unidentified Schock staffer, who tape-recorded a Feb. 4, 2016, conversation with Schock in which he "wanted to discuss and attempted to suggest an inaccurate account of one of the specific matters now charged in the indictment."

"The government may present this recording or parts of it at trial," the motion states.

The 35-year-old Schock, a onetime rising star in Illinois politics, was indicted in November 2016 on a variety of federal charges, including theft of government funds, wire fraud, tax evasion and making false statements.

A former state legislator who was elected in 2008 to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Peoria area, Schock announced his surprise resignation from the House on March 17, 2015. In the weeks prior to his resignation, Schock was hit with a series of well-orchestrated information leaks that generated multiple news stories suggesting he had engaged in financial improprieties relating to his office spending. They included misstating mileage expenses.

The source of those leaks to media outlets has never been identified. But it had to have come from someone intimately familiar with Schock's activities and office records.

It didn't take long for federal investigators to launch a probe that revealed further improprieties ultimately laid out in the government's 52-page indictment.

One of the more interesting charges is that Schock repeatedly took money from his multiple campaign funds, used it to purchase tickets to high-profile sporting events and sold the tickets at a profit to ticket brokers.

The government alleged that Schock did not reimburse his campaign accounts or pay income taxes on the proceeds of his ticket venture.

Now that the government has responded to Schock's motion, it's up to U.S. Judge Colin Bruce to resolve the issue. There is no indication how much time he'll need to issue his ruling.

Schock has requested the government turn over its files related to its relationship with the informant as well as grand jury transcripts.

But the government said that not only does the law not require Schock get additional information but that he's already been given much of what he seeks.

Prosecutor Bass said the government "has provided discovery materials beyond that which is required," outlining disclosures that total hundreds of thousands of pages of material.

Normally a hard-boiled prosecutor, Bass displayed his sensitive side when he suggested his feelings have been hurt by Schock's suggestion that the government has improperly withheld information.

"He fails to even begin to acknowledge the government's substantial demonstration of good faith in the discovery process since before the indictment was returned," the prosecutor wrote.

While denying any suggestion of impropriety on the informant's part, the government said the charge is moot because it does not intend to use any of the material the informant gave investigators.

"The government made no use of them during the investigation, they led to no other evidence and the government does not intend to present them at trial," the motion states.

As for Schock's complaints that the informant improperly searched fellow staffers' desks and office files to acquire information to give to investigators, the government stated that there is no expectation of privacy in a public office and that, as the office manager, Rudolph had the right to conduct a consensual search.

As officer manager, the motion states, Rudolph gave himself consent to conduct the search.

"Since the office manager did not exceed his authority, there simply is no issue," the government states.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone by 217-351-5369.