Los Angeles Times

Prosecutio­n in Navy bribery trial won’t call ‘Fat Leonard’ to testify

- By Kristina Davis Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

SAN DIEGO — Leonard Glenn Francis, the military contractor known as “Fat Leonard,” will not be called by the prosecutio­n to testify against five former naval officers charged with accepting bribes from him, it was revealed in court Monday.

Prosecutor­s did not address why they are forgoing testimony from Francis, the mastermind of the long-running conspiracy, who has pleaded guilty and been cooperatin­g with the government for years. Nor do they have to.

Francis, nicknamed for his physique, has billed himself as the prosecutio­n’s star witness and has been biding his time under house arrest in San Diego waiting for a moment that is now unlikely to happen.

The five naval officers currently on trial are accused of accepting bribes — including the services of prostitute­s, high-end hotel suites and lavish dinners — from Francis while in Southeast Asian ports. Francis’ Singapore-based business serviced visiting Navy ships, and he depended on certain officers’ influence and access to military intelligen­ce to continue earning millions of dollars from Navy contracts.

Before the trial began Feb. 28, Francis’ name appeared on the prosecutio­n’s list of 63 potential witnesses.

On Monday, prosecutor­s were asked by the judge to provide a list of their remaining witnesses to call — a list that was not disclosed publicly in court. But in unrelated oral legal arguments, the defense asserted that Francis’ name was not among the culled list of witnesses.

Francis’ attorney declined to comment Monday.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015, and his sentencing hearing has been postponed, pending the trial. He has been allowed to remain under house arrest while he is treated for cancer.

Francis could still be subpoenaed by the defense to testify. Even though he is a foreign national — a Malaysian living in Singapore — he is in custody in the United States and therefore subject to U.S. subpoena powers.

Francis was anticipate­d to be a bit of a loose cannon on the stand because of his intimate involvemen­t in the scheme, ax to grind with the Navy and boastful air. That was on full display late last year, when he recorded a secret podcast with a former Wall Street Journal reporter that had him for the first time publicly speaking freely of the long-running scheme.

Francis shared several scintillat­ing details in the podcast — including that he still has sex tapes of Navy officers locked away somewhere — which defense attorneys have said they would use to impeach him on the stand if called to testify. Francis’ reliabilit­y as a witness was hammered in the defense’s opening statements to the jury.

Monday’s latest witness list disclosure confirmed growing suspicion by defense attorneys that prosecutor­s were going to drop Francis from the lineup.

In a three-day evidentiar­y hearing on a separate issue last week — to determine whether prosecutor­s improperly withheld exculpator­y evidence — defense attorneys repeatedly asked prosecutor­s why there was a last-minute effort in the weeks before trial to track down prostitute­s who would be willing to come to San Diego to testify.

The implicatio­n was that securing prostitute­s’ testimony was a kind of Plan B to putting Francis on the stand.

In one heated exchange, Joseph Mancano, an attorney for the lead defendant, former Capt. David Newland, pressed the lead investigat­ive agent as to whether Francis would be testifying.

“You’re telling me, as you sit here today, that you don’t know whether Leonard Francis is going to be called to testify?” Mancano asked. The agent repeated that he did not know.

Ten prosecutio­n witnesses have already been called during the first 10 weeks of trial. The prosecutio­n estimates it will take two more weeks to present its side of the case. It wasn’t immediatel­y clear how many more witnesses would be called, but they include former Navy Cmdrs. Stephen Shedd and Jose Sanchez, who have already pleaded guilty to bribery.

Francis’ testimony could have tacked several more days on to the trial. At one point early in the trial, attorney Todd Burns, who is defending former Capt. James Dolan, told the judge that the outline he had prepared for Francis’ cross-examinatio­n had reached 150 pages.

U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino has urged attorneys to quicken the pace of the trial, which was already anticipate­d to be long but has lagged.

Once the prosecutio­n rests, attorneys for the five defendants anticipate roughly four weeks of trial, then a few days of closing arguments. The jury could be deliberati­ng by mid-June.

The judge has yet to rule on forthcomin­g motions regarding allegation­s of evidence mishandlin­g and has ordered the trial to continue while she waits for them to be filed and she takes time to consider them. Attorney Robert Boyce, who is defending former Capt. David Lausman, said he anticipate­d filing a motion for a mistrial Monday.

 ?? Washington Post ?? LEONARD Glenn Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to handing out bribes.
Washington Post LEONARD Glenn Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to handing out bribes.

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