Mimesis Law
7 March 2021

Sailor Seeks Sentencing Break Citing Hillary Clinton’s E-mails

August 18, 2016 (Fault Lines) — U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier is facing sentencing in federal court after pleading guilty to “unauthorized detention of defense information.” Saucier admitted to taking six cellphone pictures of classified sections inside the U.S.S. Alexandria, but claimed that he only did so to show his future children what he did while he worked as a Machinist Mate.

Saucier’s attorney argues that his conduct, misguided as it was, pales in comparison to Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account that contained a Niagara of highly-classified information, and therefore Saucier should get what’s now considered a proverbial “slap on the wrist” in the federal trenches: a non-incarceratory sentence that involves probation.

Saucier’s position is that Clinton’s mishandling of the classified e-mails is something far worse and more extensive than he admitted to, but she was spared an indictment and, ergo, he should be cut a big break during sentencing.  Prosecutors have responded by claiming that Saucier is reaching, in that his comparison is one with a significant difference, and they are gunning for a 5- year prison term.  As reported by Politico’s Under The Radar:

“The defendant is grasping at highly imaginative and speculative straws in trying to…draw a comparison to the matter of Sec. Hilary Clinton based upon virtually no understanding and knowledge of the facts involved, the information at issue, not to mention any issues if [sic] intent and knowledge,” prosecutors wrote.

Saucier’s defense attorney argued in a submission last week that it would be unfair to impose a prison sentence on his client when Clinton’s email account was found to contain eight chains with “Top Secret” information and 36 with “Secret” information. Prosecutors and the FBI closed that investigation last month without filing charges against Clinton or anyone else. 

The contrast is fueling longstanding complaints that senior officials accused of mishandling classified information often get little or no punishment, while more junior-ranking offenders can be hit with severe consequences.

The government means business here (when does it not?), as this week it filed a detailed sentencing memorandum addressing each of Saucier’s arguments for leniency.  It includes a strong victim impact statement authored by Rear Admiral Charles A Richard, Director of Undersea Warfare Division, which details how Saucier compromised national defense information “to the significant advantage of a foreign adversary in terms of future technological development,” and that the victims of his crime are “the Navy as an institution, but also the national armed forces and the public.”

Exactly what did Saucier admit to when he pled out before jury selection? While inside the nuclear submarine, he took 6 photos containing “Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information,” meaning that the photos showed panoramic arrays of the “Maneuvering Compartment” and the reactor head of the configuration of the nuclear reactor.

Nothing points to Saucier doing this at the direction of a foreign power, and as his defense argues, there was never proof of intent to share these pictures with anyone besides his family.  His sentencing memorandum notes that two of his buddies were caught taking “selfies” inside the same submarine, but received minor punishment for their transgressions: a minor cut in docking pay and a one grade reduction in rank.

Some of the letters submitted on Saucier’s behalf note how lax the Navy’s policy towards electronics on board were at the time Saucier took the picture, and how everyone onboard was overworked.  That may be so, but trying to minimize Saucier’s crime after his admission of guilt may backfire during sentencing.  What’s more important, however, is that Saucier was also charged with obstruction of justice because he destroyed a laptop, a memory card, and a camera after he was confronted by investigators.

He didn’t plead to the obstruction count, but it may well be a major factor in his sentencing for obstructing or impeding  justice because of relevant conduct.  Obstructing is really frowned upon by the courts, because that means someone had the temerity to impede the efficient administration of the government’s investigation and the courts’ administration of justice.   The other side may have the following rejoinder: what’s a bigger affront to our system of justice, obstruction by defendants, or the fact that a sentencing judge may in every case take into account charged conduct that was rejected and acquitted by a jury? But that’s another conversation for another day.

A summary of the controversy involving Clinton’s classified e-mails is detailed by FBI Director James Comey’s statement:

110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential.

A similar but still different set of cases involving potential and actual leaks of classified information involved storied wartime general David H. Petraeus and former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling.  Following an investigation of Petraeus of potential leaks stemming from an extramarital affair, Petraeus — despite being exposed to charges of lying to the FBI — negotiated with the government and was allowed to plead out to the misdemeanor charge of mishandling information. He was sentenced to two years probation.

Sterling, like Saucier, was charged with violating the Espionage Act, and after losing at trial he was sentenced to 42 months in prison.  He was found guilty of leaking to the New York Times information about Operation Merlin.   Anacharsis must have been up to something, after all.

In Saucier’s case, will what was deemed good for the mother goose presidential candidate be also good for the gander Navy Petty Officer?  Come August 19, Saucier will find out when he is sentenced.

4 Comments on this post.

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  • FlameCCT
    18 August 2016 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    “He didn’t plead to the obstruction count, but it may well be a major factor in his sentencing for obstructing or impeding justice because of relevant conduct.”

    I would note that the Clinton email issue also involves obstructing or impeding justice as she allowed people with security clearances access to the email server and allowed them to delete and scrub the server.

  • losingtrader
    19 August 2016 at 1:52 am - Reply

    Saucier’s defense attorney argued in a submission last week that it would be unfair to impose a prison sentence on his client when Clinton’s email account was found to contain eight chains with “Top Secret” information and 36 with “Secret” information.

    Note to self: When being prosecuted by feds, don’t let (attorney) Hogan anywhere near my case.

    This seems completely impotent and a recipe for getting the Staples button pushed after an above-guidelines sentence.
    The defendant would be better off with Sgt Shultz ,who at least admitted he knew nothing.

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