Judge sinks guilty sailor's 'Clinton defense'

kristian saucier

Story highlights

  • Sailor Kristian Saucier took pictures inside his submarine
  • He had admitted knowing that it was illegal to take photos
  • His lawyers tried to liken the case to Hillary Clinton's emails

Bridgeport, Connecticut (CNN)A federal judge sentenced a Navy sailor to one year in prison Friday for taking photos in a classified area of a nuclear submarine, after he had pleaded for leniency by citing the government's decision not to indict Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information.

US District Judge Stefan Underhill did not directly address the Clinton comparison, but likened the sailor's offense to being pulled over for speeding on a highway, saying that just because other vehicles aren't stopped, doesn't mean you can get out of paying your ticket.
    "Selective enforcement is really not a good argument ... those arguments don't really carry much water," said Underhill.
    Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier, a 29-year-old mechanic, had admitted he used his personal cell phone on three occasions in 2009 to take six pictures of the USS Alexandria submarine's classified propulsion system while working in the engine room, according to court documents.
    "We need to make sure that every service person understands the consequences of playing fast and loose with important information," Underhill said.
    The sentence was well below the more than five years behind bars sought by the government, but not the probation that Saucier had requested.
    In a court filing, Saucier's lawyer compared the half-dozen classified photos Saucier had in his possession to the 110 classified emails the FBI determined were on Clinton's personal server.
    "Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as 'confidential/restricted,' far less than Clinton's 110 emails," Derrick Hogan wrote to the US District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
    Advocating for probation, Hogan said it would be "unjust and unfair" for Saucier -- who had pleaded guilty -- to do prison time "for a crime those more powerful than him will likely avoid."
    The USS Alexandria sub on which Saucier served.
    The federal government rejected the comparison in a court filing earlier this week.
    "The defendant is grasping at highly imaginative and speculative straws in trying to further draw a comparison to the matter of Sec. Hilary (sic) Clinton based upon virtually no understanding and knowledge of the facts involved, the information at issue, not to mention any issues of intent and knowledge," the prosecutors said in court papers.
    Saucier, who served on the USS Alexandria from September 2007 until March 2012, had a secret security clearance and had admitted knowing he was not authorized to take the photos, which depicted classified material.
    Still, Saucier's lawyers claimed his reason for taking the photos was benign.
    "Mr. Saucier admitted that he knew when he took the pictures in 2009 that they were classified and that he did so out of the misguided desire to keep these pictures in order to one day show his family and his future children what he did while he was in the Navy," Hogan wrote in a court filing.
    Underhill said the federal sentencing guidelines of approximately 5 to 7 years were too high in this instance, because it was not proven Saucier transmitted the sensitive information to a foreign nation or actor.
    "I see someone who I think fundamentally is a good person," Underhill said, adding that Saucier did something "beyond stupid."
    Saucier's conduct is different from Clinton's email controversy, even his lawyers admit. The former secretary of state has said she did not knowingly send or receive emails that were classified, while Saucier has admitted knowing his conduct was illegal.
    FBI Director James Comey, however, said his investigation found that "any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position ... should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation" about classified matters. Comey also noted that a small number of the emails did bear markings indicating the presence of classified information, a fact that Saucier's defense attorneys had pointed to.
    After the sentencing Saucier hugged his parents. His wife was seen crying in the hallway.
    Speaking to CNN, one of Saucier's lawyers said the legal team was pleased with the sentence and does not plan to appeal.
    "Obviously were never happy when one of our clients has to go to prison, but in this case, we're happy with the decision," said attorney Greg Rinckey.