Judge rejects settlement plea in submarine secret sale case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A Navy nuclear engineer and his wife withdrew their guilty pleas Tuesday in a case they alleged conspired to sell secrets about U.S. nuclear-powered warships. was involved when a federal judge rejected plea agreements that called for exclusivity. Sentencing Guidelines

Jonathan and Diana Tobey, of Annapolis, Maryland, pleaded guilty in February in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to one count each of conspiracy to communicate restricted data.

Jonathan Tobey’s attorneys had asked for a sentence ranging from about 12 to 17 years in prison. Prosecutors said Tuesday that such a sentence would be the most significant in modern times under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Prosecutors also asked for three years for Diana Tobey.

U.S. District Judge Gina Groh said that while she usually honors plea agreements, in this case she said the sentencing options were “grossly low” given the seriousness of the charges.

The group said the act to which the couple pleaded guilty was “done for selfish and greedy reasons, but could have caused great harm to the Navy and others”.

“I find no good reason to accept either of these plea deals,” Groh said.

Dressed in orange prison jumpsuits and seated at separate tables, the pair then separately withdrew their guilty pleas, prompting the gang to set a trial date for January 17.

Prosecutors said Jonathan Tobey abused his access to top-secret government information and repeatedly sold details about the design elements and performance characteristics of the Virginia-class submarines to anyone he believed to be inside. He was a representative of a foreign government but was actually an undercover FBI agent.

Diana Tobey, who was teaching at a private school in Maryland at the time of the couple’s arrest last October, was accused of acting as a lookout at several prearranged “dead drop” locations where the undercover Memory cards containing information were left behind.

Memory cards were devices hidden in things like chewing gum wrappers and peanut butter sandwiches. The couple was arrested after they placed a memory card at a dead-drop location in Jefferson County, West Virginia.

According to Tuesday’s testimony, any information that falls into the third category of classified information was not classified as top secret or top secret.

The FBI has said the scheme began in April 2020, when Jonathan Tobey sent a package of Navy documents to a foreign government and wrote that he wanted to sell operations manuals, performance reports and other sensitive information to that country. I am interested. Prosecutors said he included in the package, which had a Pittsburgh return address, instructions for his supposed contact to have a secret relationship with her.

The package was obtained by the FBI in December 2020 through its legal attaché office in an unspecified foreign country. He launched a months-long undercover operation in which an agent approached Tobey as a representative of a foreign country, eventually paying $100,000 in cryptocurrency in exchange for information Tobey offered.

Jonathan Towbey, who had a top secret security clearance through the Department of Defense, agreed to pay as part of the plea agreement to assist federal authorities in locating and retrieving all classified information in his possession. Cryptocurrency was agreed upon.

The country to which Jonathan Tobey wanted to sell the information was not identified in court documents or disclosed in court.

FBI agents who searched the couple’s home found shredded papers, thousands of dollars in cash, valid children’s passports and a “go-bag” containing a USB flash drive and latex gloves, court testimony last year said. According to.

During a December 2021 hearing, Diana Tobey’s attorneys refuted prosecutors’ claims citing 2019 messages from the couple in which she considered fleeing the United States to avoid arrest. Instead, the defense said it was an insult to then-President Donald Trump behind the couple’s immigration plans.

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