WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors stood down on Wednesday after seeking to hold former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., in civil contempt after a deal was reached on Schock producing documents related to the ongoing criminal investigation against him.
It is the latest — and a bit unusual — twist in the Schock legal saga unfolding before a Springfield grand jury and in the courtroom of a federal judge in the same city.
“I believe we have at least a temporary resolution that would cause us to request that we postpone this hearing and proceed no further,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass told U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough.
Schock, who resigned from Congress on March 31 under an ethics cloud, was in court Tuesday and Wednesday with his attorney, George Terwilliger III.
“As Mr. Bass suggests, I think we both agree that sort of suspending the hearing for the moment pending the execution of this agreement as to part of this dispute would be a good idea,” Terwilliger told the judge.
Later Terwilliger said, “In the proceedings before the court this week, we were seeking to secure” Schock’s “constitutional rights in connection with a grand jury investigation. We are very pleased that we reached an agreement with the government that protects Mr. Schock’s rights as we complete the task of making available thousands of pages of documents.”
The government move to hold Schock in civil contempt on the narrow issue of producing records of congressional, campaign and related spending was not part of the public record until Wednesday. A transcript of the proceeding was released by Terwilliger’s office.
Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the Central District of Illinois, said the hearing “was to show cause why Mr. Schock should not be held in civil contempt for failing to comply with [Myerscough] order to produce campaign and congressional records.”
“The hearing began as sealed, or closed hearing. It was opened by the court at the onset of [Tuesday’s] proceedings.”
A byproduct of what became an open hearing on the civil contempt issue was official confirmation of the existence of the grand jury in Springfield, which has been hearing testimony about Schock for months.
Previously, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the grand jury proceedings based on information from other sources. Schock is being investigated over his use of government and campaign money and other business dealings.
Schock agreed to produce all “responsive records” in his possession within 30 days.
An outstanding matter concerns records prosecutors are seeking from Schock related to his “representational” capacity as a member of the House of Representatives and whether turning over some other material violates his Fifth Amendment protections, Terwilliger said.
Schock invoked “speech and debate privilege,” which is not uncommon, even though he quit the House. In any event, Terwilliger told the judge he has to confer with the House general counsel, Kerry Kircher, because “the House has not produced everything to us.”
The house counsel did file an amicus, or friend of the court brief.
“We can’t be responsible for identifying what’s responsive to a subpoena that’s been issued to the House,” Terwilliger told the judge.