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

Jun 28, 2017

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex enters port at Subic Bay in the Philippines.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

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.