What to watch for in the upcoming ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery trial
The San Diego Union-Tribune February 25, 2022
SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — After more than a one-year delay, the trial of five Navy officers in the “Fat Leonard” Navy bribery scandal is set to begin Monday with jury selection.
The trial, in San Diego federal court, will be a first in the sprawling prosecution that became public in 2013 with the arrest of Singapore-based military contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as Fat Leonard.
It could also be the last.
Twenty-nine people have pleaded guilty in the case — most of them Navy officials who admitted using their positions to support Francis’ business interests in exchange for bribes.
The five officers going to trial now are accused of similar corruption: slipping Francis information on ship schedules, nudging business to the Southeast Asia ports he controlled and running interference for him when necessary, according to the 2017 indictment. In return they were allegedly bribed with lavish meals, sex parties and vacations.
The indictment named nine officers, but four pleaded guilty before trial. That leaves David Newland, James Dolan, Bruce Loveless and David Lausman — all former captains — and Cmdr. Mario Herrera.
The trial, overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino, is projected to last at least two months and will likely make for some tedious moments with so many defendants. Opening statements alone could last several hours — one to two hours for the prosecutor and then again for each defense attorney.
The most anticipated witness will be Francis, who pleaded guilty in 2015 and has been cooperating with the prosecution. However, the defense is trying to bar or limit his testimony in light of a podcast in which Francis made some explosive comments late last year. The judge has yet to rule on the issue.
The podcaster has plans to air new episodes timed to the start of the trial, updating listeners on the fallout, including the subpoena the creators were forced to abide by.
A madam for sex workers allegedly hired by Francis, an array of experts on various subjects and other Navy officials who have already pleaded guilty are also likely witnesses, according to court filings.
One aspect of the larger prosecution that has frustrated many people are the number of higher ranking Navy officials who have been implicated but not criminally charged. It remains to be seen if any of those officers, or even a surprise player, might be name-dropped on the witness stand.
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