When and where the court-martial of Cmdr. David Morales, accused of corruption in the ongoing Glenn Defense Marine Asia “Fat Leonard” scandal, will occur is up in the air yet again.
The court-martial slated to start today in a Naval Station Norfolk military courtroom has been postponed over what appears to be the availability of the government’s alleged star witness — Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis.
Morales, a fighter pilot who is alleged to have close ties to Francis, is the only military prosecuted case in the scandal that has gotten close to actually going to trial, as others have taken plea deals.
He is charged with conspiracy, bribery and graft for accepting gifts from Francis, which included prostitutes, lavish meals and alcohol in exchange for steering business to GDMA.
The schedule of the trial was cast into doubt last week at a motions hearing in Norfolk.
“The military judge heard a government motion for change of venue or, in the alternative, a request for a deposition, and discussed witness availability issues,” said Lt. Jamie Seibel, spokeswoman for Fleet Forces Command, the Norfolk-based command charged with overseeing the Navy’s prosecution of Fat Leonard-related cases.
Seibel said she was unaware of the exact details of the discussions and thus couldn’t comment on whether the discussions centered around Francis’ availability to testify in the case.
Francis pleaded guilty in January 2015 to bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
He has yet to be sentenced and has agreed to cooperate with the government in prosecuting others in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The Washington Post, however, reported on May 22 that the Navy’s request for change of venue or its attempt to find alternate ways to get the 350-pound Leonard to testify against Morales are the reasons for the trial’s current postponement.
The report stated that Navy prosecutors had subpoenaed Francis to testify, but that a federal judge has declined to allow him to travel to Virginia to do so.
The Post’s report said no official reason for preventing Francis testifying in Virginia have been given. However, there are reports that his health isn’t good.
What all this means for the trial has yet to be determined, as the military court didn’t rule on the prosecution’s motion at last week’s hearing.
A previous attempt to get the trial relocated to San Diego was denied in February.
A ruling on the latest request could become available as early as May 30, when the lawyers and military judge reconvene onboard Norfolk Naval Station.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.