A federal judge on Friday sentenced former Navy machinist Kristian Saucier to one year in prison and a $100 fine for taking photos inside the engine room of a nuclear submarine after the sailor’s attorneys argued for leniency by citing the FBI’s decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with mishandling classified information.
U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill never explicitly named the Democratic presidential candidate in announcing his sentencing Friday, but attorneys for the sailor said they believe invoking the so-called “Clinton defense” may have helped their client avoid additional time behind bars.
Saucier, 29, admitted to taking a half-dozen photos of the USS Alexandria’s classified propulsion system while working as a machinist in its engine room in 2009. He pleaded guilty in May 2016 to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information.
In court documents filed earlier this month, defense attorneys said the FBI’s decision not to charge Mrs. Clinton for similar crimes related to her use of a private email server should be taken into consideration at sentencing.
“Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as ‘confidential/restricted,’ far less than Clinton’s 110 emails,” attorney Derrick Hogan wrote.
It would 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 lawyer added.
Instead, Judge Underhill said the sailor had done something “beyond stupid,” and equated his actions with those of a motorist being pulled over for speeding amid a freeway full of careless drivers, CNN reported from the hearing in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
“Selective enforcement is really not a good argument … those arguments don’t really carry much water,” Judge Underhill said, according to the network.
“We need to make sure that every service person understands the consequences of playing fast and loose with important information,” he said.
Nonetheless, defense attorney Greg Rinckey told U.S. News & World Report that he thinks the legal team’s Clinton defense played a part in earning the sailor only one year in prison when he faced upwards of six.
“He cryptically made some comments about selective prosecution and how that didn’t play any factor. Do I think it may have? Sure. But I think there was enough mitigation that the judge was able to depart from the sentencing guidelines [on that basis alone],” Rinckey says.
Following the defense’s invoking of the Clinton case in court documents before sentencing, prosecutors responded with a filing of their own taking aim at their argument.
“The defendant is grasping at highly imaginative and speculative straws in trying to further draw a comparison to the matter of Sec. Hilary (sic) Clinton based upon virtually no understanding and knowledge of the facts involved, the information at issue, not to mention any issues of intent and knowledge,” prosecuting attorneys wrote.
In addition to the 12-month prison sentence, Judge Underhill ordered Saucier to serve six months of home confinement following his release and to perform 100 hours of community service. He’s also been asked to pay an $100 fine and has been banned from owning firearms, his attorneys told U.S. News.
By entering a guilty plea, Saucier avoided an obstruction of justice charge related to his attempt to destroy the cell phone that stored the photos.
“Mr. Saucier admitted that he knew when he took the pictures in 2009 that they were classified and that he did so out of the misguided desire to keep these pictures in order to one day show his family and his future children what he did while he was in the Navy,” his attorneys told the court.
Saucier will report to prison in October and is “most concerned with being able to return home to his family,” Mr. Rinckey told U.S. News.
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