Guilty Verdicts for Four of Five Navy Officers in “Fat Leonard” Trial
More than five years after being indicted on charges of accepting bribes in the now famous “Fat Leonard” case, four retired captains of the U.S. Navy were convicted but the jury failed to decide the case of the senior-most defendant. The U.S. Department of Justice has not said if it will seek to retry Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless with many observers believing that the verdict may mark a conclusion in the long-running case. The four captains found guilty, and other defendants, including Leonard Francis, are due to be sentenced later this year.
The trial and deliberation which lasted nearly four months rehashed many of the now well-known details of the bribery case. It was the only trial in the nearly decade-long investigation which resulted in the indictment by a federal grand jury of the five former officers along with four others in March 2017. The others, also assigned to the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, pleaded guilty before trial as well as numerous other defendants indicted during the ongoing investigation.
The trial, which began in March of this year, included charges of bribery, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bribery. The defendants that were convicted were Captain David Newland who had served as Chief of Staff to the Commander of the Seventh Fleet, Captain James Dolan who was Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics for the Seventh Fleet, and Commander Mario Herrera who was Fleet Operations and Schedules Officer for the Seventh Fleet. Another defendant, Captain David Lausman who had been in command of two vessels the U.S.S. Blue Ridge and U.S.S. George Washington serviced by Francis’s company, was also charged with obstruction of justice for destroying a computer hard drive.
Prosecutors replayed the tales of “fat Leonard” dolling out gifts, providing fancy meals and luxury hotel rooms and suites as well as entertainment and prostitutes to the Navy officers between 2006 and 2014. They made their case by presenting emails and copies of invoices as well as testimony from federal agents and fellow officers who had previously pleaded guilty in the case. Noticeably absent although he had boasted he was the star witness was Leonard Francis.
Defense lawyers countered with only a few witnesses, instead focusing on attempts to discredit the government witnesses during cross-examination. They also presented several motions the most serious of which argues that the government withheld information and was the grounds for at least a mistrial or dismissal. The judge is yet to decide the motions which could upset the verdicts or provide grounds for an appeal.
In the end, the jury agreed with the government finding the four captains guilty on all charges of providing information and conspiring with Leonard Francis and his company Glenn Defense Marin Asia. The jury found that the officers’ actions had permitted Francis and his company to benefit from Navy contracts and overcharge the Navy for services ranging from fuel and supplies to security, transportation, and sewage disposal.
The penalties for each of the counts range to a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud, 15 years for bribery, and 5 years for conspiring to commit bribery as well as fines of up to $250,000 on each count. Lausman faces a possible additional 20 years $250,000 fine on the charge of destroying evidence.
Lawyers for Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless moved for a dismissal of the case against him after it was announced that the jury did not reach a verdict on the charges. U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino declined to make an immediate ruling.
The four captains were scheduled for sentencing on October 11. Leonard Francis’ sentencing had been delayed pending this court case and he is currently scheduled to be sentenced on July 14.
The long-running fraud and bribery investigation resulted in federal criminal charges against 34 U.S. Navy officials, defense contractors, and the GDMA corporation. Twenty-nine previously pleaded guilty. With the verdict in this court case, a total of 33 defendants have now been convicted of various fraud and corruption offenses.