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Former Congressman Pleads Not Guilty To Misusing Public Funds

Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock speaks to members of the media in Peoria, Ill., in Feb. 2015.

Former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock is pleading not guilty to 24 felony counts, including wire fraud, theft of government funds and making false statements.

Schock, 35, entered his not guilty plea at a pre-trial hearing on Monday. He was indicted by a grand jury in November after resigning from Congress in 2015 amidst an ethics investigation.

"I look forward to all the facts coming out in this case," Politico reported Schock said after the hearing. "I have full confidence in my legal team, full confidence in the good people of this community and I'm confident that in the end, justice will prevail."

The trial is set to begin in February.

At the hearing, Politico also reported attorneys for both sides discussed whether Schock could use campaign bank accounts to pay legal fees:

" 'These campaign funds are potential victims of the crimes charged,' prosecutor Timothy Bass told the judge, adding that Schock shouldn't be able to continue 'unsupervised expenditures' from the accounts.

"The two sides agreed to try and work out a deal after the arraignment. Schock's three campaign accounts currently contain, in total, about $379,000. As of October, Schock had $746,000 in debts."

Schock was elected to Congress in 2008 when he was just 27 years old and a rising star in the Illinois Republican Party, as we have reported.

In 2015, multiple news reports alleged inappropriate spending by Schock's office, the most damaging of which was a story in The Washington Post about his choice to turn his office into a replica of a lavish Victorian sitting room from the hit PBS show Downton Abbey.

November's grand jury indictment estimated the remodeling totaled "approximately $40,000, including the purchase of a $5,000 chandelier," $25,000 of which was charged to the House of Representatives.

The remodeling costs were described in invoices as "services to assist the member in setting up our district and DC offices," and said the Victorian lounge design included "materials from our district and rearranging/ designing/ structuring the space to best suit the member and staff's needs."

Schock is also accused of misusing public funds to attend or profit from tickets to professional sports games, submitting false mileage expenses for "campaign-related" travel, hiring private planes and helicopters for personal use and submitting false expense claims for camera equipment and vehicles.

U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, who is prosecuting the case, alleged in a November statement that Schock "generated income to himself, which resulted in a loss of more than $100,000 to the government, Schock's campaign committees and others."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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