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HomeUSA NewsJury convicts 4 former Navy officers in 'Fats Leonard' bribery trial

Jury convicts 4 former Navy officers in ‘Fats Leonard’ bribery trial

A federal jury in San Diego on Wednesday convicted 4 of 5 former U.S. naval officers of conspiracy, bribery and fraud, capping a five-month trial and a decade-long investigation of the worst corruption scandal within the historical past of the Navy.

After deliberating over elements of three weeks, jurors convicted former Capts. David Newland, James Dolan and David Lausman and former Cmdr. Mario Herrera of conspiracy to commit bribery, receiving bribes and conspiracy to commit sincere providers wire fraud attributable to their entanglements with Singapore-based navy contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, often known as “Fats Leonard.”

The jury deadlocked and reached no verdict on fees towards a fifth defendant, former Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless.

The prolonged trial — the one one within the sprawling prosecution — started with opening statements March 2. The proof jurors have been proven featured reams of paperwork together with emails and invoices, testimony from federal brokers and testimony from different Navy officers who had pleaded responsible and agreed to cooperate in trade for a doubtlessly lighter sentence.

Prosecutors laid out what’s now, after almost a decade of indictments and greater than two dozen responsible pleas, a well-recognized litany: Francis — nicknamed for his girth — showered presents of fancy meals, prostitutes, high-end lodge rooms and different perks on Navy officers from 2006 by means of 2014.

In return, they did his bidding, resembling offering ship schedules for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet and making an attempt to steer Navy ships to ports round Southeast Asia managed by Francis and his firm, Glenn Protection Marin Asia. As soon as the ships have been there, Francis gouged the Navy on providers together with gasoline, provides, sewage disposal, safety and shore transportation.

Francis admitted to defrauding the Navy out of no less than $35 million.

The trial included a unprecedented three-day listening to over allegations that federal prosecutors had illegally withheld info from protection attorneys. It was certainly one of a number of motions that protection attorneys filed in the course of the course of the trial contending that prosecutors had dedicated misconduct and {that a} mistrial needs to be declared.

However U.S. District Choose Janis Sammartino has not issued any formal rulings on the motions — uncommon in any trial however particularly so in such a high-profile case. The latest was filed even whereas the jury deliberated, arguing that the federal government had not disclosed {that a} key case agent had made inaccurate statements in a sworn arrest warrant affidavit in a strikingly related case a yr in the past.

That movement and the others are nonetheless pending, irritating protection attorneys. “Our view is that this case ought to by no means have gone to the jury,” Joseph Mancano, the lawyer for Newland, stated throughout a listening to June 22 exterior the presence of the jury. And he criticized how federal prosecutors have dealt with the case.

“The layers of prosecutorial misconduct on this case are mind-boggling,” he instructed the choose.

Seventh Fleet defendants and their lawyers in the "Fat Leonard" trial leave court on April 26, 2022.

Seventh Fleet defendants and their attorneys within the “Fats Leonard” trial go away court docket on April 26, 2022. A jury couldn’t attain a verdict as to Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, heart proper, in pink tie.

(Kristina Davis/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

However, in response, authorities attorneys stated that nothing the protection raised within the motions was sufficient to halt the case. “Not one of the points — individually or collectively — come up to ‘flagrant misbehavior’ or have induced ‘substantial prejudice’ to the defendants,” prosecutors wrote.

The arguments weren’t the most important shock within the trial. In a shocking transfer, the scandal’s namesake, Francis, who pleaded responsible in 2015 and met a whole bunch of occasions with brokers and prosecutors as a part of his cooperation settlement, was not referred to as to testify.

The federal government gave no rationalization, and certainly it didn’t should. However there was loads of hypothesis. Some centered on a multipart podcast Francis recorded that was launched earlier than trial. In hours of recordings he bragged about his affect and attain. At one level — in an excerpt protection attorneys performed a number of occasions for the jury — he appeared to throw a cloud over the pending case.

“I can’t say my story,” Francis instructed an interviewer in his deep baritone voice, “as a result of if I let you know my story, if I inform them my story, then the federal government hasn’t bought a case towards all these different guys.”

One other attainable cause: Years in the past, Francis testified in a deposition for a court docket martial of a Navy fighter pilot charged with accepting bribes. Although the choose within the case didn’t settle for a protection lawyer’s argument that Francis perjured himself beneath cross-examination, he acquitted the pilot of essentially the most severe fees towards him, which relied on Francis’s testimony.

Additionally not referred to as to testify was a second key participant, former Cmdr. Jose Sanchez, who has additionally pleaded responsible and, like Francis, is awaiting sentencing after serving to prosecutors.

That meant the case towards the 5 males relied closely on emails, cellphone and billing information, and different documentary proof. Different corrupt officers who pleaded responsible, resembling Edmund Aruffo and Stephen Shedd, have been referred to as to testify, however protection attorneys in closing arguments urged jurors to think about the sizable gap made by Francis’ absence as an indication of the weak point within the authorities’s case.

Protection attorneys placed on solely a handful of witnesses, attacking the federal government case through cross-examinations. In closing arguments that stretched over a number of days, they assailed the federal government’s reliance on cooperating witnesses angling for shorter sentences. They stated the emails offered by prosecutors have been out of context and insinuated wrongdoing by merely connecting the previous officers to Francis or his firm.

The extremely uncommon midtrial listening to centered on details about one prostitute. Proper because the trial bought underway, federal brokers had conversations with the girl, named Ynah, who was allegedly paid by Francis to have intercourse with defendant Lausman.

However the girl denied to brokers she had intercourse and stated she slept on the sofa within the lodge room of an officer. She additionally admitted she lied to Francis about having intercourse so she might receives a commission. Ynah declined requests to come back to San Diego from the Philippines to testify.

No info on this dialog was given to protection attorneys, which they stated violated longstanding authorized obligations of prosecutors to show over info that would assist present a defendant was not responsible. Sammartino, the choose, halted testimony within the trial for a listening to by which the chief prosecutor on the case, Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Pletcher, needed to take the extraordinary step of testifying on the stand to defend his actions.

In the long run, Sammartino didn’t sanction prosecutors.

The convicted defendants and their attorneys declined to remark after the verdicts have been learn to an almost packed courtroom. Thomas O’Brien, the lawyer for Loveless, requested Sammartino to acquit his purchasers after the jury was dismissed, arguing the federal government had “thrown every thing it could possibly” towards Loveless and was unable to persuade the jury.

Pletcher objected to that, and Sammartino declined to make an instantaneous ruling.

The U.S. legal professional’s workplace issued a quick information launch in regards to the verdict late Wednesday however didn’t touch upon its significance or say whether or not Loveless could be retried.

Outdoors court docket, O’Brien stated the federal government shouldn’t search to retry his consumer. “After 4 months of trial and several other weeks of deliberations the jury didn’t convict Adm. Loveless on any counts,” he stated. “This case needs to be dismissed.”

Sentencing for the 4 males was set for Oct. 11, however a sequence of post-trial motions from protection attorneys are anticipated to be filed earlier than then.

The trial might very nicely mark the top of the sweeping Fats Leonard investigation. For the reason that indictment on this case was handed down in March 2017, the investigation has slowed down markedly. 4 folks have been indicted after this case, however they every pleaded responsible earlier than trial.

Francis is about to be sentenced on July 14. Since 2018 he had been residing in a form of home arrest at a secret residential location whereas receiving therapy and take care of medical issues, together with renal most cancers.



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