Former Congressman Aaron Schock could find himself with a clean record in few months, after federal prosecutors in Chicago agreed to drop all charges against the Illinois Republican if he pays back the IRS and his campaign fund.
Schock was indicted in 2016 on 24 criminal counts, including charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, theft of government funds, making false statements, filing false reports with federal election officials and filing false tax returns. The investigation drove him to resign from his seat representing Illinois’ 18th District in May 2015.
The deal was announced Wednesday, at what was expected to be a routine status hearing before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly. As part of the deal, called a deferred prosecution agreement, Schock’s campaign committee, Schock for Congress, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses.
Schock himself must pay $42,000 to the IRS and $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund. If he proves those payments and avoids other wrongdoing, prosecutors have agreed to drop all felony counts against him, leaving him with a clean criminal record. The former congressman had been scheduled to go to trial June 10 in federal court in Chicago.
In a statement, Schock questioned why the prosecutor’s decision took so long.
“But I continue to ask where was the oversight and supervision when my indictment was initiated?” he said. “It should not have taken four years, two U.S. attorney offices, three judges and millions of dollars in costs to the taxpayers and myself to come to this conclusion.”
“I have stated consistently and constantly that mistakes were made in the handling of my campaign and congressional offices, and I have acknowledged responsibility for that — but mistakes are not crimes.”
Just 27 years old when he was first elected in 2008 to represent Illinois’ 18th District, Schock was the House’s resident reality star for three full terms. He was a media darling, appearing on television programs such as “Top Chef” and was a fixture of the Hollywood online tabloid TMZ, earning the ire of many of his colleagues but the attention of young people. In 2012, he posed shirtless for a Men’s Health cover.
That attention led to increased media scrutiny, which tanked his political career when The Washington Post outed a lavish project Schock undertook, remodeling his D.C. office to resemble a set on popular British drama “Downton Abbey.”
Schock could still have a political future, since this week’s deal means he avoids a felony conviction.