The Trump administration has denied a pardon for a Navy sailor who is serving a one-year sentence and then three years’ probation for taking photos of classified areas inside a nuclear submarine.
Attorneys for the sailor, Kristian Saucier, said they were dismayed by the decision, given that President Donald Trump said earlier this year that he would consider giving the young man clemency as well as a pardon. Trump also expressed disapproval of Saucier’s conviction and imprisonment during his presidential campaign, depicting it as overkill.
“I’m surprised and disappointed,” said Saucier’s attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, a professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law who filed the request for a pardon in January. “The fact that the president acknowledged that he was reviewing it and looking at it, in mid-January, signaled that he was putting his personal touch on this. The bureaucracy stifled our effort. We’re not confident that the president ever saw the petition for a pardon or clemency.”
I'm surprised and disappointed. We're not confident that the president ever saw the petition for a pardon or clemency.
Saucier, who served as a machinist's mate aboard the USS Alexandria from 2007 to 2012, used his cellphone to photograph parts of the submarine's nuclear propulsion system while it was docked at the U.S. Navy’s submarine base in Groton, Conn., according to published reports. Saucier, who is from Arlington, Vt., knew they would be classified, but he wanted to show his family what he did in the Navy, his lawyers said. He denied sharing the photos with any unauthorized recipient.
Saucier began serving his sentence in October at Fort Devens in Massachusetts.
Saucier, who was 22 when he took the photos, was convicted of unauthorized retention of national defense information, which is a felony, and received an "other-than-honorable" discharge from the Navy. He faced a possible 10 years in jail, his lawyers said.
During his presidential campaign, Trump balked at how Saucier’s actions on the submarine were handled.
“They took the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine,” Trump said in a campaign stop, according to The Washington Post. “That’s an old submarine; they’ve got plenty of pictures. If the enemy wants them, they’ve got plenty of them.”
Sadie Saucier, the sailor’s wife, said that her husband, who had some “strands of hope” after Trump was elected, now was despairing that his case had been forgotten. She said that she is struggling to make ends meet as she takes care of their 21-month-old daughter and tries to pay the bills.
“I thought it was a mistake when I saw the letter,” she said of the rejection notice.
Although Saucier is scheduled to be released in September, he will have to wear an ankle monitor for several months, abide by a curfew, and then be allowed to venture out, under strict supervision, after that for about six months to seek employment.
“It’s basically house arrest,” she said, adding that then he will be on probation for three years.
Addicott, a former Army attorney, has maintained that Saucier’s prosecution was politically motivated.
Addicott said that Saucier admitted making a mistake when he took the photos, but he said that such actions are rarely so severely punished.
With a national focus on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information on a personal email server while she was secretary of state, and criticism over how the Department of Justice and the FBI were addressing her actions, Addicott said, there was pressure on authorities to be particularly aggressive.
“The Department of Justice was being criticized,” said Addicott in an interview with Fox News earlier this year. “Two other sailors who did the same thing just had to pay about $300 fines and didn’t go to jail.”
Unlike the other sailors, he said, Saucier’s case came up in court amid debates about Clinton’s classified emails, prompting prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut to make the 30-year-old sailor a scapegoat, Addicott asserted.