Four "Fat Leonard" Defendants Freed Due to Prosecutors' Missteps

Fat Leonard
Leonard "Fat Leonard" Glenn Francis, the contractor at the center of the 7th Fleet bribery scandal (file image)

Published Sep 7, 2023 6:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Four U.S. Navy officers who were convicted of corruption charges in connection with the "Fat Leonard" bribery scandal have had their convictions vacated because of prosecutorial misconduct. 

Capt. David Newland, Capt. James Dolan, Capt. David Lausman and Cmdr. Mario Herrera were tried together in a case before the _____ in 2022. All were convicted of accepting bribes from businessman Leonard "Fat Leonard" Glenn Francis and his East Asian ship husbandry firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA). Lausman was convicted of an additional wire-fraud charge.

The trial and jury deliberation lasted nearly four months, and featured a recounting of the details of the sprawling GDMA case. According to prosecutors, the accused were provided with luxury meals, hotel stays, travel, and entertainment, to include the services of prostitutes. All the allegations centered on their activities at U.S. 7th Fleet during a period from 2006-14. In return, according to prosecutors, Francis gained an unfair advantage in accessing Navy ship-husbanding contracts, enabling him to overbill the service by more than $30 million. 

During the trial, their defense lawyers argued that prosecutors withheld information from the defense, and they argued that this justified a mistrial. This motion did not prevent the jury from returning a guilty verdict.

In a motion in July, the defense claimed that federal prosecutors had suppressed information about five elements of their case, including negative evidence about key witnesses. One witness had allegedly lied under owth; two others allegedly had possessed child pornography. In some of these alleged breaches of the rules of procedure, the defense asserted that prosecutors had lied to the court.

On Wednesday, District Judge Janis Sammartino ruled that prosecutors' conduct during the trial had been "outrageous." She provided the four defendants the opportunity to plead guilty to a much lesser misdemeanor charge, destruction of government property, and pay a token fine of $100 each. In exchange, she vacated the jury verdict. 

The decision is a major setback for one of the highest-profile military prosecutions in the United States in decades. The recently-assigned U.S. assistant attorney on the case, Peter Ko, acknowledged in court that there had been "serious issues" with the prosecution and that his office did not concur with all of the allegations originally leveled at the four defendants. He did not elaborate, according to the AP.