Opening statements will continue Thursday in the trial of five Navy officers charged with federal crimes for allegedly accepting lavish gifts in exchange for assisting foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn "Fat Leonard" Francis and his ship husbanding company.
Five officers, former members of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet — Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, Capts. David Newland, James Dolan and David Lausman, and Cmdr. Mario Herrera — has maintained their innocence and have gone to trial.
Twenty-nine people, mostly Navy officials, have already pleaded guilty to helping Francis including providing classified ship schedules in exchange for extravagant outings in South Asia with prostitutes and meals with tabs totaling more than $20,000.
They also helped recruit other Navy officers into Francis' flock, ensuring he "continued to have a loyal group of Navy officers" at his beck and call, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Wasserman said in her opening statement on Wednesday.
In exchange, they were allegedly provided with expensive meals, fancy hotel accommodations, and the services of prostitutes, all on Francis' dime.
Francis has admitted to offering $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers. In exchange, the officers passed him classified information and even went so far as redirecting military vessels to ports that were lucrative for his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says GDMA overbilled the Navy by more than $35 million for providing Naval ships with husbanding services.
On Wednesday afternoon, a federal jury in San Diego heard opening statements from the prosecution, as well as a defense opening statement from an attorney for David Newland, chief of staff aboard the USS Blue Ridge. The remaining defense opening arguments for Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, Cmdr. Mario Herrera, Capt. James Dolan and Capt. David Lausman, are expected to be completed on Thursday.
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"The members of this conspiracy took care of Leonard Francis because he took care of them," Wasserman said. "Although sworn to the Navy, the (defendants) worked for Francis."
While Wasserman referred to Newland as Francis' "ultimate fixer," who was able to use his influence to get ships moved to GDMA ports when Francis desired, Newland's attorney, Joseph Mancano, denied that Newland had any role related to ship husbanding contracts during his time in the Seventh Fleet.
Mancano said his client attended dinners hosted by Francis, but denied that Newland ever received any gifts from the defense contractor, who Moncano said had spun a web of lies implicating numerous officers as a way to save himself from imprisonment for defrauding the Navy.
Francis, who is scheduled to be sentenced in July, has been cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice since his arrest in 2013 in San Diego. It's unclear whether Francis, who is in poor health and has been under house arrest, will testify at the trial, which is expected to last months. Defense lawyers have been trying to prevent him from taking the stand after he gave his version of events in a podcast last year.