Former sailor seeks pardon in submarine photos case

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The USS Alexandria (SSN 757) transits the Thames River as she returns to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut on April 3, 2013. (Jason J. Perry/U.S. Navy)
The USS Alexandria (SSN 757) transits the Thames River as she returns to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut on April 3, 2013. (Jason J. Perry/U.S. Navy)

Former sailor seeks pardon in submarine photos case

by: Julia Bergman | .
The Day | .
published: January 12, 2017

A former Navy petty officer, who is imprisoned for illegally taking pictures on a nuclear attack submarine, is seeking a presidential pardon and clemency.

On Monday, Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army attorney and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St Mary's Law School in Texas, submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice petitions for a presidential pardon and for clemency to get Kristian Saucier out of jail. Addicott also filed a waiver application to waive the required five-year waiting period for clemency petitions.

Saucier, 30, a machinist's mate aboard the USS Alexandria from September 2007 to March 2012, used his cellphone camera to take pictures of various technical components of the submarine's nuclear propulsion system while it was docked at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

He was convicted of one count of unauthorized retention of national defense information, a felony, and received an "other-than-honorable" discharge from the Navy.

President Barack Obama, who has less than 10 days left in office, is unlikely to pardon Saucier or commute his sentence, but Addicott said he would be calling on the Donald Trump administration to "fast track" the petitions.

Addicott, who, with the help of his law student interns, is offering his services pro bono, said he receives dozens of requests for legal help annually, and that he took on Saucier's case because "his punishment is grossly disproportionate to his misconduct."

Saucier is nearly three months into his 12-month sentence at the Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens in western Massachusetts. Addicott, who recently visited Saucier in prison, said his client was remaining strong, and noted that he had grown a beard.

Speaking by phone Monday, Addicott argued that two other petty officers on the Alexandria, who got caught taking pictures aboard the submarine, "received far, far less punishment."

"One went on to be a commissioned officer in the Navy," he added.

During Saucier's sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Richards, a prosecutor for the case, described the pictures taken by the two sailors as "nothing like" the ones taken by Saucier.

"Literally it was, 'Hey, thumbs-up, Mom' kind of a picture ... and when they got caught, the Navy ... demoted them, they made them requalify. ... they penalized them financially," Richards said.

The investigation into Saucier started in March 2012, when his cellphone was found at a waste transfer station in Hampton, Conn.

After he was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in July 2012, he destroyed a laptop computer, a personal camera and the camera's memory card, according to the government.

Both the DOJ and the Navy have jurisdiction over these types of offenses, Addicott said, but the Navy "never asserted its jurisdiction."

He added that the Navy usually handles these types of offenses in a nonjudicial manner, with the offender receiving punishment such as a reduction in rank, not jail time.

Rear Adm. Charles Richard, former director of undersea warfare, in submitting a victim impact statement on behalf of the Navy in the case, said that Saucier's actions "have had far-reaching consequences for the United States and the Officers, Sailors and families who serve it."

"Therefore, the Navy respectfully requests that the court consider a sentence of confinement, and a fine, at the high end of the applicable range under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines," Richard said.

It's unclear why the federal government, not the Navy, prosecuted the case, but Addicott conjectured that it was due to a "perfect storm" of events, including the Department of Justice and FBI being criticized for "not taking serious allegations of misuse of classified information," and the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, that led to Saucier being "targeted."

In an interview with The Day in September, Kathleen Saucier said her son took the photos as a keepsake of his time in the Navy, and that he never intended to distribute or sell them, as the government speculated. She described her son as being in the top 10 percent of his class at his Florida high school, and said that he could've had his choice of colleges, but chose to serve his country instead.

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