PEORIA — A federal judge has ordered the region's top prosecutor to answer, in writing, within two weeks about any additional "falsehoods" or "misstatements" made to a federal grand jury investigating former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock.
The order, handed down Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce, strongly takes the government to task after prosecutors admitted — after first denying — that their team commented 11 times on Schock's decision not to testify before either grand jury investigating the Peoria Republican who resigned in 2015.
It's unusual for a judge to ask a U.S. attorney to respond in writing. Most times, the prosecutor's assistants handle the cases. But here, the judge said it's up to Patrick Hansen, who is the acting U.S. attorney until a new one is nominated by President Donald Trump. The reason? The backtracking by prosecutors in two different fillings, Bruce wrote in his order.
"The claim related to defendant’s allegation that a government attorney made comments regarding defendant’s failure to testify before the grand jury," Bruce wrote in the three-page order. "Originally, the government denied defendant’s allegation, stating that it 'unequivocally submits to this court that this allegation is false. It did not happen.' However, the government has now changed its position, admitting that 'on 11 occasions — seven times before the first grand jury and four times before the second grand jury — government counsel commented on or addressed Mr. Schock’s testifying or decision not to testify before the grand jury.'"
Bruce noted the change in position came several months after Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass denied the allegations by Schock's attorneys. And it was Hansen who wrote to the judge clarifying things, the judge said.
Part of Schock's attorneys' extensive effort to get the charges dismissed revolves around the allegation that prosecutors mentioned to grand jurors that the 36-year-old ex-lawmaker didn’t appear before the grand jury — a no-no in the American legal system as a person has an absolute right against self incrimination.
A spokeswoman for the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois offered no comment about the judge's order, and lead Schock defense attorney George Terwilliger said, "The order speaks for itself."