A former U.S. Navy sailor has fallen on hard times after serving a year in jail for taking photos of classified areas inside a nuclear submarine, and says a tweet by President Trump on Tuesday morning has restored his hope for a pardon.
Kristian Saucier, of Arlington, Vt., told Fox News in a telephone interview Tuesday he is on the verge of losing his home, which is in foreclosure, and is unable to pay all his bills, despite working at least 70 hours a week as a trash collector.
“I’m really struggling,” said Saucier, a former first class petty officer. “We can’t pay our electric bill. Bill collectors are calling every day, I make only half what I used to make.”
Saucier was released last fall from a Massachusetts federal prison following a conviction of unauthorized retention of national defense information. Saucier was 22 in 2009, when he took six photos of classified areas inside the USS Alexandria.
Trump, who raised the possibility of pardoning Saucier a year ago but had not since mentioned the case publicly, tweeted on Tuesday morning: “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on the submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others.”
Saucier told Fox News the tweet fills him with renewed hope the president may come through with a pardon. The felony conviction, paired with a dishonorable discharge and stripping of veteran disability benefits, have made it difficult for Saucier to earn enough money to support his family.
“We’re hopeful with that tweet today,” said Saucier, referring to himself and his wife, Sadie. “He mentioned me quite a few times when he was campaigning, and said it was a double standard how Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin were handled. I mishandled low-level class information and they went after me with the full weight of the government. Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin flagrantly mishandled high-level information, making it available to a pedophile, and they get away with it.”
Saucier reiterated this sentiment in an exclusive TV interview with Fox News' Sandra Smith on “The Story” Tuesday evening, saying the FBI “needed to set an example” with him.
“It just so happened that my case was gratuitous for them to prosecute so they could take the heat off Hillary Clinton,” Saucier told Smith.
Saucier again said he's “hopeful” Trump may take another look at his case.
“I think [Trump] needs to send a clear message to the DOJ under the Obama administration that what they did to us was far too extreme,” Saucier said.
“He needs to send the same message to Hillary Clinton and them, and say, 'Look, you need to get prosecuted, and this guy here, he shouldn't be a felon anymore.'”
The State Department on Friday released a batch of emails from Abedin’s account discovered by the FBI on a laptop belonging to her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. At least four of the documents were marked “classified.”
The former Navy sailor said on “The Story” that Abedin should be prosecuted.
“She should be put through the same legal system that went after me, and unfortunately I didn't have near the legal resources that she does or Hillary Clinton does, so they'll be able to mount a much better defense than I could, but even still, they should be charged the same as me,” he told Smith.
Saucier said he took the photos because of his excitement about the submarine and a desire to show his family the remarkable environment where he worked.
It seemed like we'd slipped off the radar. This tweet has renewed our hope that President Trump sees the injustice. He has identified the injustice several times.
“I made an innocent mistake,” he said in the telephone interview with Fox on Tuesday morning. “Many people [who have served in the military] have said they also took pictures not for nefarious purposes. The pictures were on my own personal device, not for distribution, which so many people do. Because the FBI and Department of Justice wanted to get someone at that time, they went after me and destroyed my life.”
While campaigning for president, Trump, like other critics of the punishment meted out to Saucier, called the Obama administration’s prosecution of the young sailor as overkill, and lambasted federal officials for going out of their way to punish him while not going after Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to handle sensitive government-related emails. They call Saucier’s punishment a political move, and say that the sailor was a scapegoat for the Department of Justice and FBI.
Saucier, who grew up in Cape Coral, Fla., had asked a U.S. district judge in Connecticut to sentence him to probation. In court filings, he raised Clinton’s handling of classified information while using her private server. The FBI declined to charge Clinton.
Saucier’s lawyers also said two other Alexandria crew members were caught taking photos in the same locations as Saucier and were disciplined by the Navy, but not prosecuted. Saucier had faced five to six years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
“My family and I continue to suffer,” Saucier said, adding that he hopes Trump restores the veteran disability benefits he needs for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries suffered during his 11 years of service.
A GoFundMe page to raise $20,000 for the Sauciers has gotten a bit more than $8,000 in donations as of Jan. 4.
Last June, Saucier’s attorneys, who had applied for a pardon from the Trump administration, got a letter from the DOJ saying they needed to wait about five years to submit a petition for the pardon.
The letter bewildered the sailor and his supporters, given the support the president has expressed. They speculated that perhaps the DOJ’s response was not reflective of Trump’s thoughts about the case.
“We’re not confident that the president ever saw the petition for a pardon or clemency,” a Trump attorney said at the time.
Ronald Daigle, an attorney who represents Saucier, said the Tuesday tweet has given the sailor and his supporters a much-needed morale boost.
“It seemed like we’d slipped off the radar,” Daigle said to Fox News. “This tweet has renewed our hope that President Trump sees the injustice. He has identified the injustice several times.”
Daigle said that despite the DOJ’s letter advising a five-year wait, “the president can issue a pardon at any time, just like he did with Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” the former Maricopa County [Arizona] official who had been convicted for disobeying a 2011 court order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
“My client was a political pawn,” Daigle said. “Nothing can give him the year back that he had in federal prison, and he’s the first to say he did do something wrong, but the punishment was excessive.”
Fox News' Pamela Ng and The Associated Press contributed to this report.