PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Lawyers for former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock on Tuesday accused federal investigators of misconduct in their probe of the once-rising Republican star, and want the charges of fraud against him dismissed.
Schock's lawyers say in a motion filed in U.S. District Court that prosecutors and investigators repeatedly asked potential witnesses "irrelevant and highly invasive questions" about Schock's personal relationships and sexuality, including whether he is gay.
In the 90-page filing, defense attorneys claim the conduct is "a sorry example of one of the most fundamental abuses of prosecutorial authority that can occur."
"The government's inquiries into Mr. Schock's sexuality and romantic relationships were not just distasteful and offensive," the filing states. "They were prejudicial."
Schock's lawyers cited legal cases that they said show the bias of jurors against a defendant when that person is accused of being gay.
The filing acknowledges that there have been rumors about Schock's sexual orientation for years. It says prosecutors questioned more than a dozen witnesses about whether Schock is gay and whether he really dated his girlfriend. The questioning amounted to harassment and "salacious innuendo," the filing says.
"Questioning witnesses about Mr. Schock's sexuality, including in front of the grand jury, is outrageous and highly prejudicial. It cannot possibly be relevant to anything," the filing says.
Prosecutors have accused Schock of illegally being reimbursed with government money for lavish spending, including a $5,000 chandelier. Schock has also been charged with filing false income tax returns and covering up his alleged fraud schemes with fake invoices and false statements. None of the allegations appear to involve Schock's romantic relationships.
Schock argued in an April filing that the charges are based on ambiguous House spending rules. He said his prosecution undermines longstanding protections for members of Congress. A judge rejected that argument. Prosecutors denied allegations Schock's attorneys made in March that investigators crossed legal lines by recruiting a confidential informant from Schock's staff.
A judge sided with prosecutors on the confidential informant issue. However, Schock's lawyers on Tuesday again asked the judge to suppress evidence gathered by the informant.
Schock resigned in 2015 and has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, theft of government funds and falsification of election commission filings. Schock's trial is scheduled for January 2018 before a federal court judge in Urbana.
Schock's legal team's spokesman Mark B. Hubbard declined to elaborate beyond the filing.
Telephone calls to the office of acting U.S. Attorney Patrick Hansen for comment were not immediately returned.