While on the campaign trail, President Trump talked about a Navy man who was sentenced to federal prison for taking photographs inside a nuclear attack submarine.
Trump was comparing the sailor’s crime to Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, arguing that others have been prosecuted for doing “nothing by comparison to what she’s done.”
“They took the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine,” Trump said in one of his campaign speeches, The Washington Post reported at the time. “That’s an old submarine; they’ve got plenty of pictures, if the enemy wants them, they’ve got plenty of them. He wanted to take a couple of pictures. They put him in jail for a year.”
Now that enlisted sailor, 30-year-old Kristian Saucier, is asking the president to commute his prison sentence and pardon him of his crime. His attorneys say they want to show that not only is it a double standard that Americans such as Saucier are prosecuted when Clinton was not, but also that Saucier was used as an example during a time when the U.S. government was cracking down on people mishandling classified information — to show that it does take such cases seriously.
“I just see such a clear injustice,” his mother, Kathleen Saucier, told The Washington Post. “It breaks my heart because I know he’s not the only one who feels that they’ve been thrown away by their country.
“If anything comes out of this — we’re going to raise awareness about double standards.”
“I never said he wasn’t guilty,” she added, “but what I’m saying is, how can this be justice?”
Jeffrey Addicott, Saucier’s attorney, who recently filed petitions for Saucier’s clemency as well as a pardon under the Obama administration, called the handling of Saucier’s misconduct case a “gross miscarriage of justice.”
“Justice means you get what you deserve; he didn’t get what he deserved,” said Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. He is handling the case pro bono.
Addicott added that other sailors who took photos about the same time on the same submarine were not held to the same standard as Saucier.
“None were discharged; none were jailed. So why was Kristian? There’s only one reason,” Addicott said, referring to Clinton’s email controversy.
When asked about the accusations against federal prosecutors, Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, said in a statement to The Post that “for any pardon application, when the Office of the Pardon Attorney requests our office’s position on a pardon, we will review the application and provide our position.”
A spokeswoman for the White House said she was looking into the petition.
Saucier, who was a machinist’s mate aboard the USS Alexandria, snapped six photos on his cellphone in 2009, showing his work areas on the submarine, according to court records.
His attorneys had said in a filing that he did it “out of the misguided desire to keep these pictures in order to one day show his family and future children what he did while he was in the Navy.”
But the Justice Department said Saucier, who had secret clearance, revealed “major technical components of the submarine’s propulsion system.” In 2012, someone found Saucier’s cellphone — with the photos still on it — at a waste transfer station, according to the Justice Department.
After Saucier was questioned by federal agents, prosecutors said, he destroyed his laptop.
In 2015, Saucier was indicted on a charge of unauthorized retention of defense information, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, and was given an “other-than-honorable” discharge from the Navy, according to Fox News. The Navy did not immediately have information concerning Saucier.
Saucier pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to one year in federal prison. He started his term in October at Fort Devens in Massachusetts.
The Clinton argument came up last year in a court filing from Saucier’s attorneys, who said that the former secretary of state had engaged in similar acts, according to Politico, which first reported the story.
“In our case, Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as ‘confidential/restricted,’ far less than Clinton’s 110 emails,” the attorneys wrote in an August 2016 sentencing memorandum, adding: “It will 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.”
As The Post previously reported, Trump also made the comparison between Clinton and Saucier’s cases — to try to show that people have indeed been punished for mishandling classified material in the past.
The article stated:
But Saucier’s case is not exactly comparable, either. The Navy sailor was sentenced to prison after taking photos in classified areas of a nuclear submarine. He then destroyed the evidence after learning that he was under investigation. In fact, Saucier’s lawyers even acknowledged that the two cases were different: Saucier admitted knowing that what he was doing was illegal, unlike Clinton.
Similarly, last year, a Marine officer facing separation from the military for mishandling classified information also planned to use the Clinton defense.
In 2012, Maj. Jason Brezler had sent classified information to fellow Marines using a Yahoo email address, warning them about a potentially corrupt Afghan police chief, The Post’s Dan Lamothe reported. When Brezler was threatened with separation from the military, he sued — and his lawyer said he would use Clinton’s email case to fight it in court.
In December, a federal judge ruled that the Marine Corps could not remove Brezler from the service because it had not given him all the documents relevant to his case before his administrative hearing.
Most recently, in his last days as president, Barack Obama commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army private convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
In Saucier’s case, his attorneys are arguing that the punishment was “way out of the norm.”
Ronald Daigle, an attorney for Saucier, said he met last month with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, to talk about a possible pardon.
“He was a career sailor,” Daigle said of Saucier, “so he has some disappointing days, but he’s a true patriot and he thinks things are going to turn out for the best.”
This story has been updated.