The felony convictions of four former U.S. Navy officers were vacated Wednesday over what a judge described as “outrageous” misconduct by prosecutors, the latest turn in a massive corruption scandal centered on a defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard." U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino agreed to resolve the case with a plea agreement in which the four defendants were each ordered to pay a $100 fine and plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge. The former officers were convicted by a federal jury in June 2022 of accepting bribes from international defense contractor Leonard Francis, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering Navy officials $500,000 in cash bribes, among other bribery and fraud charges, reports the Washington Post. However, the trial was deemed problematic by attorneys for the four men —former Capts. David Newland, James Dolan, and David Lausman, and former Cmdr. Mario Herrera,— because prosecutors relied on untrustworthy information provided by Francis, who last year escaped to Venezuela weeks before his sentencing date, and withheld information from the defense.
For years, Francis’s Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, provided items and services that Navy submarines and ships need in port, including food, water, waste removal, and fuel. However, investigators alleged that Francis’s company overcharged the Navy for its services and faked some invoices. Francis also bribed service members with $1 million in Cuban cigars, lavish meals, and parties with what prosecutors described as a “rotating carousel of prostitutes,” the Post reported. Defense attorneys maintain that the trial was built on flawed evidence and stemmed from dubious sources. Some documents prosecutors used “came in briefcases and plastic bags to the United States from Leonard Francis’s garage in Malaysia” and were obtained from one of Francis’s tech workers, even though prosecutors said they came from computer hard drives from Francis’s company. Some emails from Francis used in the case were also doctored, defense attorneys alleged. Information that disproved accusations of Newland and Lausman engaging with prostitutes was withheld. “They presented false narrative and false testimony,” said Robert Boyce, Lausman’s attorney.