Defense attorneys say that the FBI’s use of a staff member to then-Rep Aaron Schock (R-Ill), as an informant could make the prosecution’s case against him much more complicated than previously thought.
In new court filings, lawyers argue that the staffer working at Aaron Schock’s office secretly provided investigators with a trove of credit card receipts, emails, and several other documents that violated the former congressman’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizures. The former congressman was indicted with 24 counts last year, and his trial is set to begin this summer.
Lawyers called the use of the informant, in the latest court filings, troubling, and said that it puts a question mark on provisions that mandate a separation between various government branches.
“It threatens the core architecture of our system of government. It’s not something that people should gloss over here,” said Steve Ross, the co-leader of the congressional investigations practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Details about how investigation officials gathered information against Schock were made public for the first time after the court filing from Schock’s attorneys last week. In the filing, they asked for more information about how authorities engaged the informant who recorded private conversations and took documents from the lawmaker’s office in Peoria, Illinois.
The informant is reported to have taken several documents from the office, including travel receipts, office purchases invoices, and credit card statements of Schock’s personal American Express account. He also gave content from another staffer’s email account, to the FBI.
“Let’s address the overall feel of it, this kind of thing is very unusual — it’s very unusual to use someone on congressional staff to act in an undercover capacity at all, much less to have them pilfering documents,” Solomon L. Wisenberg, the co-chair of the white collar practice at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.
The audio recordings from the informant, acquired by the defense attorneys through the court discovery process, reportedly contain conversations between Schock’s staff and the attorney representing them, in addition to attempts made to “deliberately elicit attorney-client privileged information.”
The informant, who worked in Schock’s district office, but is not named in the court documents, had been subpoenaed in the government investigation. According to the court filing, he was the first person to be interviewed by the investigators.
However, prosecutors have said that they don’t intend on using some information obtained from the information, in the trial.