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Pacific News Minute: First Military Prosecution Begins in “Fat Leonard” Scandal

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Military prosecutors opened their case against Commander David Alexander Morales in Norfolk, Virginia this week. It’s the latest development in the so-called ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal where 21 naval officers who served in the Pacific Fleet have now been charged or pleaded guilty. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

In an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, prosecutors accused Commander Morales of bribery, graft, prostitution and adultery. According to court documents, he accepted gifts from defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis, in return for steering contracts to Leonard’s Glenn Defense Marine Asia. The gifts included travel, luxury hotel rooms, the services of prostitutes, concert tickets and four suckling pigs.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Commander Morales passed along classified information. His civilian defense attorney, Frank Spinner, told reporters that the government has no evidence of bribery or graft either and he said that it is significant that this is the first case in the wide ranging scandal to wind up in military court. Twenty other officers have faced charges in federal court. “The leftovers are for the Navy,” Spinner said. “The sharks have been prosecuted. What’s left is the minnows.”

It is far from clear that only minnows remain. The Washington Post reports that more than 200 people are still under scrutiny in the slow moving investigation, including 30 admirals.

Earlier this month, former Navy Captain Michael George Brooks was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery while serving as the Naval Attaché at the US Embassy in Manila. According to the Post, federal agents are investigating Francis’ connections to others who served as defense or naval attaches throughout Southeast Asia.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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