HARTFORD, Conn. — The conviction of a Navy sailor who took photos of classified areas inside a submarine is getting a new look from the Trump administration.
An attorney for Kristian Saucier, who is serving a one-year prison sentence, said he was encouraged by President Donald Trump's national security adviser to seek a pardon. Trump has said he is reviewing the case.
Saucier pleaded guilty last year to unauthorized detention of defense information for taking the photos inside the USS Alexandria when it was in Groton, Connecticut, in 2009. In pleading for leniency, he argued the prosecution was driven by sensitivity about classified information amid the scandal involving Hillary Clinton's emails.
"The Justice Department at that time was under pressure to do something," his attorney Ronald Daigle Jr. said. "So he got prosecuted for it. I don't think it's fair because she didn't get prosecuted for anything."
Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos, but federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who put national security at risk by taking photos showing details of the submarine's propulsion system and reactor compartment and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera. Prosecutors also rejected comparisons to Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
After Trump's election, Daigle discussed the case in an hour-long November meeting inside Trump Tower with Michael Flynn, the president's national security adviser, who encouraged him to file a formal pardon request, Daigle said. In an interview last week with Fox News' Sean Hannity, who had previously had Saucier's mother on his show, Trump was asked about a possible pardon and said he was reviewing the case.
"I think it's very unfair in light of what's happened with other people," Trump said.
Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, declined to comment on the pardon request.
The investigation began in 2012 when a waste station supervisor in Connecticut found Saucier's cellphone with the submarine photos atop a pile of demolition trash and alerted a retired Navy friend who contacted the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Saucier, who is from Arlington, Vermont, was a 22-year-old machinist mate on the nuclear-powered attack submarine when he took the photos. He knew they would be classified but he wanted to show his family what he did in the Navy, his lawyers said. He denied sharing the photos with any unauthorized recipient.
Saucier began serving his sentence in October at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, and Daigle said his client is optimistic about a pardon.
"He is very thankful and grateful that it seems like the president and White House are actually listening and maybe going to take a look at the case," Daigle said. "So his hopes are up."