SAN ANTONIO — A sailor who pleaded guilty to photographing classified submarine systems hopes to receive leniency by comparing his case to Hillary Clinton's ongoing e-mail controversy, his lawyers said in a court document.
Petty Officer First Class Kristian M. Saucier, 29, will be sentenced Friday for a felony charge of retaining national defense information. He pleaded guilty in May on the charge that he photographed classified workings of the propulsion system of the nuclear powered USS Alexandria.
The photos taken in 2009 showed parts of the reactor configuration, according to the memo filed last week in support of a probation sentencing by Saucier's lawyer, Derrick Hogan. Saucier knew the system was secret and prohibited from being documented, but he wanted to show his future family what he did in the Navy, the court filing states.
Hogan submitted the memo ahead of the sentencing and argues for leniency by making comparisons to the high-profile investigation into Clinton's use of a private computer server as Secretary of State. During Clinton's tenure, she possessed 110 classified emails, including eight chains of top secret information, on her server, FBI Director James Comey said in July following an investigation.
While Comey called Clinton's use of a private email system to send classified messages "extremely careless," Comey recommended to the Department of Justice that a lack of intent to mishandle and exploit classified information was a crucial point in not seeking prosecution. The controversy has been a sticking point during Clinton's presidential campaign.
Hogan seeks to exploit the appearance of a double standard: leniency for high-ranking officials and harsh punishments for junior servicemembers. Similar comparisons have been made with Gen. David Petraeus, a former director of the CIA who was not charged with handling secret information that he allegedly shared with a mistress.
"In our case, Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as 'confidential/restricted,' far less than Clinton's 110 emails," Hogan wrote in the court papers. "It will be unjust and unfair for Mr. Saucier to receive any sentence other than probation for a crime those more powerful than him will likely avoid."
The comparison with Clinton's case is bolstered by examples of leniency, including a 2008 case in which a Defense Department contractor retained secret documents. The contractor received probation after a judge determined there was no intent of harm or dissemination of the documents to a foreign agent, according to the filing.
Saucier is facing more than five years in prison, which both legal teams agree is an appropriate length of sentencing in this kind of crime, according to court documents.
Prosecutors point to Saucier's actions after the crime as signs of ill-intent, such as destruction of a laptop, camera, and memory card after confronted by investigators in 2012.
Defense lawyers collected letters from Saucier's Navy colleagues to show him in a more positive light, with some of them pointing to the high-stress environment as a factor in Saucier's misconduct.
"I believe that we, the leadership own a significant portion of the blame for creating the environment where these men thought this was a good idea," said retired Chief Machinists Mate Scott Nelson.
Another sailor, Mark Robb, said in the court document that he was guilty of a similar violation by sending a classified email and was only reduced in rank and kicked out of the Navy, and not sent to prison.
"If you look at the Navy records, you will see countless mishandling classified material cases where many people are still in the Navy," Robb wrote. "I hope to convey that Kris is a great man who made a great mistake."