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Navy censures retired admiral for taking gifts from 'Fat Leonard'

Then Capt. Kenneth Norton, left, is the fourth admiral in the "Fat Leonard" corruption case to receive a letter of censure, or a formal rebuke from the U.S. Navy. Norton retired as a rear admiral in 2014.

SHAWN J. STEWART/U.S. NAVY

By CRAIG WHITLOCK | The Washington Post | Published: November 29, 2017

The Navy announced Wednesday that it has censured a retired admiral for personal misbehavior and accepting illicit gifts in the "Fat Leonard" corruption case.

Kenneth Norton, who retired in December 2014, is the fourth admiral in the case to receive a letter of censure, or a formal rebuke. In a statement, the Navy said a review determined that Norton had "demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment and leadership" and had "brought ill-repute and disgrace upon the U.S. Navy."

The Navy said Norton improperly accepted gifts from Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based contracting firm headed by Leonard Glenn Francis, known within maritime circles as "Fat Leonard" because of his 6-foot 3-inch, 350-pound frame. Francis has pleaded guilty in a long-running corruption investigation to bribing scores of Navy personnel and overcharging the Navy by more than $35 million to resupply U.S. vessels in Asia.

Two admirals in the case have been charged with federal crimes by the Justice Department. In addition, about 60 admirals have come under investigation for possible violations of military law or federal ethics rules in their dealings with Francis, who was legendary within the Navy for entertaining officers with wildly expensive dinners and all-night parties featuring high-end prostitutes.

Navy officials disclosed few details about Norton's misconduct but said it dated to his service as the commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, between 2008 and 2010.

"The Navy has a long tradition of holding leaders accountable and commanding officers are placed in unique positions of trust and responsibility. It is incumbent that they be held to the highest standards of both personal and professional behavior," Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in a statement. "Censure was both necessary and appropriate."

Under military law, the Navy has the authority to discipline retired officers, although it rarely happens in practice. A censure amounts to a public shaming.

The Navy said it also revoked its prior decision to award the Legion of Merit to Norton for his service as commander of the Reagan. The Legion of Merit is a decoration for exceptionally meritorious conduct.

During his career, Norton also served as commander of the USS Camden, commander of the Naval Safety Center, and chief of staff for naval forces in Europe and Africa. He did not respond Wednesday to a phone call or electronic message seeking comment.

Norton's predecessor as commander of the Reagan, retired Rear Admiral Terry Kraft, likewise received a letter of censure from the Navy in 2015 for accepting gifts from Francis. Investigators found that Kraft and two other admirals assigned to the Reagan in 2005 and 2006 dined at "extravagant" banquets courtesy of Francis.

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