A former U.S. Navy engineer and his wife withdrew their guilty pleas for attempting to share secret nuclear submarine technology with a foreign country. Jonathan Toebbe, of Annapolis, Md., and his wife, Diana, both pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data. Both withdrew their pleas Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Gina Groh in West Virginia said she wouldn’t accept the plea agreements struck by the defendants and federal prosecutors, reports the Wall Street Journal. Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 12.5 years to 17.5 years for Jonathan Toebbe and three years for Diana. Groh said she would deny those requests given the gravity of the alleged offenses.
Groh set a January trial date for both defendants. Prosecutor Jarod Douglas said in a hearing Tuesday his office recommended the sentence for Toebbe because he cooperated with investigators after he pleaded guilty. Prosecutors recommended the shorter sentence for Ms. Toebbe because she didn’t take the classified materials herself or try to sell them and cooperated after she pleaded guilty, Douglas said. Toebbe had national security clearance as a Navy engineer, giving him access to sensitive information related to reactors for nuclear-powered warships. He allegedly began reaching out to an unnamed foreign government in April 2020, seeking to sell access to the information.