Ex-Navy officers convicted in ‘Fat Leonard’ case seek dismissal or retrial
Four former U.S. Navy officers convicted in San Diego of accepting bribes from foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis filed a joint motion Friday seeking a retrial or a dismissal of the indictment filed against them.
Former Capts. David Newland, James Dolan, David Lausman and former Cmdr. Mario Herrera were convicted last year by a San Diego federal jury on charges of accepting gifts in exchange for providing assistance to Francis’ ship husbanding company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Prosecutors allege Francis plied the officers with fancy hotel stays, meals and prostitutes, and as a result received classified Navy information and had ships steered to ports his company controlled, which allowed him to overbill the Navy by millions.
In a nearly 350-page document filed Friday, the former officers allege the monthslong trial was rife with misconduct on the part of prosecutors, who they allege concealed evidence from the defense and prepped witnesses to provide false testimony.
A hearing to consider the defense motion is scheduled for this June. Should the defendants be granted a new trial, their attorneys are seeking that the case be retried by different prosecutors or a different prosecutorial office altogether.
Among the defense claims is that prosecutors withheld statements from a prostitute who told federal agents she did not have sex with Lausman, despite the prosecution alleging she did. The woman — referred in court documents as “Ynah” — allegedly made these statements just after the trial started and after one prosecutor alleged in an opening statement that Lausman accepted the prostitute’s services. No evidence regarding the alleged sexual encounter was admitted during the trial.
After the issue was initially raised last year by defense attorneys, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino ruled that lead prosecutor Mark Pletcher’s nondisclosure of the Ynah statements “amounted to flagrant misconduct.” However, she ruled the jury was properly instructed regarding the issue and that it did not ultimately cause substantial prejudice to the defense.
Defense attorneys also claim prosecutors hid the alleged discovery of child pornography on Francis’ computer, as well as that of one of the Naval officers originally called as a prosecution witness. Neither man ultimately testified or was prosecuted for child porn possession, which defense attorneys allege was a benefit intended to compel their cooperation in the case.
The credibility of witnesses who testified in the trial and the prosecution’s handling of their testimony was also scrutinized in the defense motion, which alleged several witnesses were coached or lied to appease prosecutors.
The defense attorneys allege one federal agent who testified made inaccurate statements in his arrest warrant affidavit in an unrelated, but similar, bribery case. The defense claims prosecutors hid evidence regarding the alleged false statements and that the agent was relied upon to provide overarching testimony in the Fat Leonard despite his apparent earlier misstatements.
Others who were indicted, pleaded guilty to charges prior to the trial and testified, “parroted the prosecutor’s scripted narratives so they could collect on the benefits in their plea agreements,” the defense alleges.
Jurors returned guilty verdicts against the four defendants, but were unable to reach a consensus on charges against a fifth officer, former Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless. Prosecutors later dismissed the charges against him. Dozens of others have pleaded guilty to various offenses.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 and was on house arrest in San Diego for several years due to health issues. He fled the country last year, but was arrested in Venezuela, where he remains in custody.