A Navy lieutenant commander who faces up to 36 years behind bars for illicitly sharing and mishandling classified information will appear for a sentencing hearing in Norfolk, Virginia, on Thursday and Friday, officials with Navy Fleet Forces Command said.
Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, formerly a naval flight officer with the secretive Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2, out of Hawaii, was initially accused of the grave crime of espionage. Early allegations indicated Lin, who is Taiwanese, was suspected of giving classified military secrets to Chinese and Taiwanese government personnel.
But on May 4, Lin accepted a plea agreement that took the espionage charges off the table. He has pleaded guilty instead to communicating national defense information, a crime under the Federal Espionage Act, and to violating orders and making false official statements, both prosecutable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
According to reports from motions hearings in Lin's case, evidence against the 40-year-old officer indicates that his misconduct stemmed not from a desire to undermine the U.S. government, but from carelessness and, in some cases, a desire to show off. The Virginian-Pilot reported that Lin was apprehended by federal agents at the Honolulu airport in 2015 before boarding a flight to China, having lied about his travel plans in an effort to avoid paperwork hassles.
In another case, he failed to properly dispose of a classified flight manifest, leaving it unsecured in his luggage.
Lin has pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with women, one of whom would turn out to be an undercover FBI agent. He acknowledged in his plea hearing that he had shared the information to impress them, according to reports.
During Lin's sentencing, he will be allowed to present mitigating evidence, Fleet Forces Command officials said in a statement. In addition to 36 years' confinement, Lin faces forfeiture of all pay and benefits and discharge from the service.