Former Congressman on Trial for Downton Abbey-Themed Office Claims Prosecutors Asked Witnesses Whether He Is Gay

Lawyers for former Rep. Aaron Schock have accused federal investigators of misconduct for allegedly questioning witnesses about the Illinois Republican’s sex life and whether he is gay.

Schock, a onetime rising star of the Republican Party, was indicted on fraud charges in November 2016, after an investigation revealed he allegedly spent taxpayer dollars on lavish trips and events — and most notably, on decorating his Capitol Hill office in the style of the TV show Downton Abbey. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that in the Tuesday pre-trial filings, Schock’s defense lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the charges altogether in light of the alleged prosecutorial misconduct, or to bar the use of evidence that is “tainted” by what they called investigators’ “irrelevant and highly invasive” inquiries.

“The prosecutor and federal agents have repeatedly asked irrelevant and highly invasive questions about Mr. Schock’s sexual orientation and relationships,” Schock’s lawyers said in one filing. “The government has investigated nearly every facet of Mr. Schock’s professional, political, and personal life. This even includes his sex life. It is no secret that there has long been speculative gossip in the media about Mr. Schock’s sexual orientation.

“For no apparent reason, the government has felt itself compelled to investigate this too,” the filing continued. “Indeed, from the very inception of this investigation, the government has discussed with witnesses whether Mr. Schock is gay, whether he really ‘dated’ his ex-girlfriend (a highly accomplished diplomat and attorney), and whether he spent the night or shared hotel rooms with her.

“The government’s inquiries into Mr. Schock’s sexuality and romantic relationships were not just distasteful and offensive. They were prejudicial.”

In early 2015, the Office of Congressional Ethics began investigating how Schock used taxpayer money, including the tens of thousands of dollars he allegedly used to decorate his Downton Abbey-themed office, The Washington Post reported last year.

Schock’s lawyers are now accusing investigators of going out of legal bounds before a Springfield-based grand jury by asking “inappropriate, irrelevant, and highly prejudicial questioning of witnesses about Mr. Schock’s sexual orientation and romantic relationships.”

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“The government’s apparent obsession with Mr. Schock’s sexuality and whether he ‘dated’ Karla Gonzalez was fueled from the very first conversation with the government’s confidential informant,” Schock’s defense team argued.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, rumors have swirled for years that Schock might be gay, with The New York Times, Slate and other media outlets making “knowing winks” about his sexuality.

The embattled Schock resigned from Congress on March 17, 2015, amid the government probe. He was indicted on Nov. 10, 2016, by a federal grand jury on 24 counts, including wire fraud, theft of government funds, filing false income tax returns and making false statements to cover up his alleged fraud.

Schock’s trial is scheduled for January 2018 before a federal court judge in Urbana, Illinois.

from PEOPLE.com http://people.com/politics/aaron-schock-trial-downton-abbey-office-prosecutors-gay/

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