Military contractor who stole US secrets forgets how to speak english in court

Christopher Glenn, 35, of West Palm Beach, is serving 10 years in federal prison for stealing military secrets. He has pleaded not guilty to new federal charges he traveled to sexually exploit underage girls in Honduras while working as a private contractor for the U.S. military and possessed child porn while working as a contractor in Iraq. (Sun Sentinel / Law Enforcement Handout)

When Christopher Glenn pleaded guilty to stealing military secrets and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison less than a month ago, he spoke his native tongue –English — during all the court proceedings in federal court in West Palm Beach.

But now that the Buffalo, N.Y., native is facing a new federal case that charges him with traveling to sexually exploit underage girls and possession of child pornography, Glenn is speaking Spanish and using an English-to-Spanish interpreter for all of his hearings in federal court in Miami.

Glenn, 35, grimaced, switched earphones twice and complained, in Spanish, that he couldn’t hear the interpreter during his arraignment Tuesday inMiami. He also used an interpreter for another court appearance there last week.

FBI agents, federal prosecutors and other observers looked askance when Glenn, who reportedly speaks fluent Spanish and Arabic in addition to English, at the first court hearing. His aliases include “El Gringo,” “Fernando” and “Yusef,” according to court records.

Court staff sometimes summon interpreters when there is some doubt about whether a defendant speaks fluent English, and they are sent away when the defendant explains they don’t need one. But Glenn appeared to be insisting on using an intepreter.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Olivia Choe mentioned it in passing to U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan as Tuesday’s hearing started, noting that Glenn was already serving a 10-year sentence following proceedings before another judge “during which he never used a Spanish interpreter.”

Assistant Federal Public Defender Christine O’Connor said she could not say why Glenn is now using an interpreter because office policy prohibits public defenders from making comments to the media.

Glenn, who was living with his mother in Century Village in West Palm Beach when he was arrested last year, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a new federal indictment that was filed last week.

Federal prosecutors say Glenn flew from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to Honduras, where he worked as a private contractor on the U.S. military base in Soto Cano, to have sex with two underage Honduran girls.

He is also charged with possession of child pornography images that prosecutors said show him having sex with a girl who was 15 and 16. The photographs were found on a digital storage device at the house where he lived in Honduras.

Prosecutors said they recently discovered Glenn had the images while he was working as a contractor for the military in Iraq in 2005. They said the girl in the photographs, and another witness, have told them that Glenn met the girl in Mexico when she was 13.

She told investigators she lived with Glenn in California while she was attending high school and was “required to have sex” with Glenn.

Glenn’s lawyer told the judge Tuesday she was having a disagreement with Glenn about questions he wanted her to ask and “evidence” he wanted to present during his bond hearing.

The judge set a $100,000 bond for Glenn on the sex charges, noting that it was a legal technicality because Glenn has no chance of being released until he serves the 10 years for the military secrets conviction.

The judge said Glenn isn’t a flight risk because he is locked up on the other conviction and isn’t a danger to the community “because there are no 15-year-old girls in the Bureau of Prisons.”

Glenn’s criminal case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Scola in Miami.

By Paula McMahon, Sun Sentinel

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