Want to drive a car for free?
Federal prosecutors say it wasn’t a problem for former congressman Aaron Schock, even after he left office in disgrace.
In newly released documents obtained by NBC5 Investigates, prosecutors allege Schock sold a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe back to a Peoria car dealership for over $46,000, but continued to drive the car for free, for nearly two months after leaving office.
The documents further reveal that Schock was hit with the third of three subpoenas on the very day he resigned his office last March, and that he has repeatedly claimed a 5th amendment right against self-incrimination, in refusing to turn over documents from his 18th district congressional offices.
“The 18th district documents belong to Mr. Schock,” his attorneys wrote. “The records do not belong to the people, or the government.”
That stance so angered federal prosecutors who were spearheading the wide-ranging investigation, that they asked the court to hold Schock in contempt, and even jail him if he did not agree to comply with the multiple subpoenas.
“Schock has deliberately and deceptively engaged in conduct solely designed to defy and refuse to comply with this court’s order,” they wrote. “He has still refused to produce a single page of documents.”
Those subpoenas had asked for, among other things, financial records relating to Schock’s congressional allowance, and documents relating to his far flung travels, including itineraries, calendars, and reimbursements.
Schock’s lawyers said in repeated filings that the information being sought by prosecutors was readily available through other sources, many of whom Schock had urged to assist in the investigation.
“Mr. Schock is a relatively young person of limited means who is currently unemployed,” they reminded the court. But that argument was met with a stern rebuke by the federal prosecutors spearheading the investigation.
While few of his fellow congressmen ever spoke in Aaron Schock’s defense, lawyers for the House of Representatives Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group agreed with Schock and his attorneys that many of the documents in question should be considered private property.
“Former congressman Schock is the owner of the records that he and his staff collected and/or generated during the time he served as U.S. Representative,” they wrote. “there is no collective entity that owns or controls those documents.”
But even as they made that claim, the House attorneys sought to distance themselves from the former Peoria congressman who had been the focus of months of federal scrutiny.
“The Bipartisan Group does not seek to file the attached memorandum to protect or defend former Congressman Aaron Schock,” they wrote, noting they were only filing out of “institutional interest” for the House itself.
In multiple filings, Schock’s lawyers estimated they were dealing with some 1.9 million documents, with estimates ranging as high as $1.75 million in expenses to review them all.
Among the hundreds of documents released Tuesday, was a letter from the House, asking the whereabouts of an iPad and an iMac desktop computer, which officials said had vanished from one of Schock’s district offices. There were no further references to those items.
At a July 28 hearing, Schock won a reprieve from the contempt effort. In a signed agreement, the two sides stated that by August 28, Schock would complete the production of records in his personal possession that are responsive to the March 31 subpoeana. The agreement says his production of those documents, is made under terms of an immunity agreement between the parties signed by Schock and his lawyer July 13.
Schock’s attorney George Terwilliger said Monday’s release of what had been sealed documents shows the ex-congressman was willing to risk contempt to challenge a government position “that flies in the face of 200 years of practice by the House of Representatives.”
“It was an unprecedented move to attempt to have a former member of Congress held in contempt for asserting constitutional rights attached to the records of his congressional office, and in doing so the government asked too much and went too far,” Terwilliger said in a statement. “It is important to note that the U.S. House of Representatives independently took a position consistent with the position Mr. Schock had previously advanced.”