Navy lingo complicates ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery trial for jury

Leonard Glenn Francis ("Fat Leonard") poses for a photo with then-Adm. Gary Roughead, at the time chief of naval operations, during a July 3, 2008, breakfast meeting in Singapore sponsored by the Navy League of the United States Singapore Council and the American Chamber of Commerce Singapore. (Navy League of the United States Singapore Council)

Kristina Davis

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Acronyms are SOP (standard operating procedure) for the Navy as a way to promote speed and efficiency. But decoding that insider language for a federal civilian jury has had the opposite effect in the “Fat Leonard” Navy bribery trial underway in San Diego.

On trial are five former naval officers linked to the Seventh Fleet: Capt. David Newland, the COS (chief of staff) to the fleet commander; Capt. James Dolan, the fleet’s N4 (assistant chief of staff for logistics); Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, the fleet’s former N2 (assistant chief of staff of intelligence); Capt. David Lausman, commanding officer of the Blue Ridge command ship; and Cmdr. Mario Herrera, fleet operations and schedules officer.

They are accused of accepting bribes of lavish dinners, hotel rooms and the services of prostitutes from Leonard Glenn Francis — the military contractor nicknamed for his outsized physique — in exchange for their access to military intelligence and official influence to enrich Francis’ business. His company, GMDA (Glenn Marine Defense Asia), serviced Navy ships during port visits in the Seventh Fleet’s AOR (area of responsibility), including Southeast Asia.

Prosecutors argue that much of the information allegedly passed on to Francis by the defendants and other naval officers was S (secret) and TS (top secret).

Attorneys have had to wrestle with an alphabet soup of witness testimony and email evidence over the past seven weeks, stopping every few minutes to decode a jumble of letters or make sense of Navy jargon. It’s been enough to even confuse Navy servicemember witnesses on the stand at times.

For instance, there’s the SSO (Special Security Office), which handles command of all SCI (sensitive compartmented information). That’s not to be mixed up with the DON SSO Navy ( Department of the Navy special security officer, the director of the SSO). Of course, that’s different from the Hong Kong SSO (Ship Support Office), which is part of FISC ( U.S. Fleet and Industrial Supply Center).

Confused yet?

“Let’s stop with the abbreviations,” U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino exclaimed at one point during a break outside the presence of the jury. “It’s giving me a headache!”

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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