Attempt to Profit from Selling Naval Secrets: Both Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were given lengthy prison terms of over 19 years by U.S. District Judge Gina Groh, who in August had rejected plea deals that would have resulted in reduced sentencing guidelines. Jonathan Toebbe’s 44th birthday was the day his sentences were announced. Time ago: 4 hours
Try to Make Money by Selling Naval Secrets, An overview
On Wednesday, a federal judge sentenced a Navy engineer to 19 years and his wife to almost 22 years for their failed effort to sell nuclear propulsion secrets to a foreign government.
Diana Toebbe received a lengthier sentence from U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh even though her husband, Jonathan, had a security clearance and stole important Navy information. Judge Groh said Ms. Toebbe received a harsher term because she sought to impede justice by writing to her husband while in jail.
Judge Groh said both had committed a heinous crime that harmed the nation. Judge Groh stated Ms. Toebbe’s offense was “not your normal situation,” thus prosecutors requested three years. The judge noted that while Mr. Toebbe, 44, had access to the information, Ms. Toebbe, 46, was “driving the bus” and helped create and cover up the plan.
In August, Judge Groh threw out the Toebbes’ earlier pleas, calling them too mild, forcing them to make fresh arrangements with prosecutors that might result in lengthier jail sentences.
On Wednesday, Judge Groh termed the Toebbes traitors and noted their sophisticated attempt to sell government secrets by employing clandestine communications and putting information in peanut butter sandwiches. She disputed prosecutors’ claim that Mr. Toebbe was more guilty.
Judge Groh also praised Mr. Toebbe for educating convicts in jail, unlike his wife. She claimed his court regret was real. Judge Groh’s approach forced prosecutors to argue for Ms. Toebbe’s leniency by blaming her husband for the crime.
According to court documents and officials briefed on the investigation, Jonathan Toebbe worked at the Washington Navy Yard on the nuclear reactors that power America’s secretive fleet of submarines, and Diana Toebbe taught at an elite private school in Annapolis, Md. They devised a plan to sell intelligence to Brazil.
Prosecutors claimed Mr. Toebbe sought to sell “confidential” information, not top-secret. Judge Groh said the Navy must believe Mr. Toebbe’s information was given to groups who want to damage the US.
Brazil plans to develop nuclear submarines, and the Toebbes felt the government was friendly and would pay for nuclear secrets. Brazil was too close to American intelligence services to risk a deal with an unknown spy. Brazilian military intelligence authorities gave the F.B.I. Mr. Toebbe’s anonymous letter prompted US investigators to identify him.
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Mr. Toebbe acknowledged that he was having a nervous breakdown. I’m heartbroken. I’ll never fix it.” Ms. Toebbe issued a statement claiming responsibility while crying, suggesting her husband’s strategy.
“I made a disastrous decision,” she continued. “Initially, I should have followed my hunch and tried harder to persuade my husband out of his idea. My family’s problems remained. Depression peaked. I thought the country’s political condition was catastrophic. I failed to persuade him. I helped him succeed.”
Ms. Toebbe claimed one of her children lived with a grandmother and the other with her brother and sister-in-law. “My choice will eternally mark their lives,” Ms. Toebbe added.
Barry P. Beck, one of Ms. Toebbe’s lawyers, requested Judge Groh to consider a three-year jail sentence in keeping with their previous plea arrangement and below the statutory standards at the outset of the hearing. The judge instead discussed extending Ms. Toebbe’s sentence beyond the guidelines.
In December 2021 and January 2022, Ms. Toebbe wrote to her husband, blaming him for the crime and requesting him to plead guilty so she could return to their children.
One letter went via the prison laundry and the other to a phony address with Mr. Toebbe’s name on it. Before reaching Mr. Toebbe, the prison intercepted both letters.
Judge Groh was concerned about not being informed about the letters earlier. She sentenced Ms. Toebbe to 10 years for obstructing justice. She said Ms. Toebbe used the letters to force her husband to perjure himself by claiming she knew nothing about the plot.
Judge Groh called it obstructive. It encourages co-defendants to lie to protect each other.
Prosecutors said Judge Groh was considering adding years to Ms. Toebbe’s sentence for two letters that never reached her husband and had no impact on the case. Federal prosecutor Jarod Douglas argued that even if the court sentenced Ms. Toebbe to the low end of Judge Groh’s original range, it would differ from prior instances.
Mr. Douglas said the government thought Ms. Toebbe should serve three years since she had classified clearance and was responsible for document security. He—not his wife—was responsible.