WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., on Thursday asked a judge in Springfield to dismiss his federal corruption charges, asserting the prosecutor crossed a line by violating separation of power provisions in the Constitution.
“The wide-ranging Indictment against Mr. Schock repeatedly trespasses on land the Constitution reserves for Congress. The Indictment repeatedly relies on House rules or standards
that were not designed to be the basis for criminal charges and are themselves ambiguous,” Schock’s motion to dismiss argues.
Moreover, the motion states: “The relevant rules are simply not as represented in the Indictment; and are, in fact, inherently ambiguous as to their requirements and their prohibitions.”
Shock’s McGuire Woods legal team asserts that the Nov. 10, 2016 criminal indictment violates the Constitution by, among other things, improperly intruding into the affairs of Congress when it comes to regulating how a member spends campaign and government funds.
That alleged prosecutorial overreach represents what Schock’s lawyers have been contending is a “chilling precedent” that allows for the selective prosecution of House and Senate members.
The motion to dismiss the 24-count indictment, handed down by a grand jury in Springfield, has been expected. Last month, Schock’s lawyers laid some of the groundwork by filing court papers alleging federal probers improperly turned a “fairly junior staffer” in Schock’s Peoria office into a “confidential informant” who secretly recorded him and stole documents.
Federal prosecutors have denied any misconduct in a reply filed with the court this week. Schock’s trial is set for July.
The motion to dismiss asserts that many of the charges against Schock in the indictment stem from ambiguous rules made by members of the House of Representatives.
The indictment alleged Schock broke various laws by using campaign and government funds for cars, mileage reimbursements, interior decorating, a charter flight to a Bears game and sports tickets he resold for profit.
On the allegations that Schock claimed more mileage expenses than he was entitled to, the motion to dismiss states that House rules allow a member wide latitude in asking for reimbursements. To underscore that point, the motion notes House members tightened up rules only after Schock resigned his seat.
“The conduct of a Member of Congress like Mr. Schock is internally regulated by a number of overlapping, often ambiguous, and at times conflicting rules enacted by the House itself or by various Committees or other entities. Although the rules are in many instances ambiguous, they are clear about at least one thing: they repeatedly recognize that a Member has significant discretion and autonomy to determine what is appropriately reimbursed,” the motion states.
Schock, once a rising political star, is also accused of filing false income tax returns and covering up his spending trail and alleged fraud schemes with fake invoices and untrue statements.
Schock — whose congressional district included part of Springfield — resigned from Congress on March 31, 2015 under a cloud. Shock’s troubles snowballed after a Washington Post article detailing the gaudy redecorating of Schock’s Capitol Hill office, which featured bright red walls.
That triggered a stream of other stories by news outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times, about Schock’s questionable use of government and campaign funds.
On the matter of improperly asking for reimbursement connected to the office makeover the basis for a fraud charge, the motion states that “the Indictment alleges that Mr. Schock hired a designer/decorator to redecorate and provide furnishings for his D.C. office. … The total cost of such services is alleged to be $40,000, but both counts ultimately claim that a crime was committed only with respect to $15,000 of that amount. … The Indictment is short on details: the only specific furnishing or decorative item it mentions is a chandelier.”
When the former Peoria lawmaker came to Congress in 2009, he was the youngest member of the House.
Since leaving Congress, Schock splits his time between Peoria and Los Angeles, where he works in real estate development.