The Fat Leonard scandal continues to haunt the Navy. In late January, the first commissioned officer to be sentenced for his part in the bribery scandal, Lieutenant Todd Malaki, was sent to prison for three years and four months.
“I stand before you dishonest, disgraced and without excuse,” Malaki said in court. “… I endangered my shipmates and my country.”
Malaki, a 25-year Navy veteran, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery as part of a plea deal with investigators. He will follow Petty Officer 1st Class Dan Layug to prison. Layug, 27, entered his guilty plea earlier in January.
Seven other defendants, a mix of both Navy officers, enlisted men and civilians, have already pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Additionally, over a hundred other people remain under investigation.
Leonard Francis, the Malaysian defense contractor at the heart of the scandal, remains in prison. He has already pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges. Francis, known as Fat Leonard because of his size, used contacts within the Navy to ensure that ships on deployment were routed to his shipyards for maintenance and overhauls in the Pacific. In all, he overbilled the U.S. Navy more than $20 million.
The scandal has reached the highest levels of the Navy, with three flag officers being censured for their role in the bribery and corruption case. It is unlikely that any of the Admirals will face criminal charges. Currently, rebukes, forced retirements and demotions appear to be the upper limit that the Navy is willing to go.
Position and authority should not be a barrier to justice. If these Admirals are guilty – and it is hard to believe that they aren’t, considering the actions already taken against them – they should be charged with a crime and get their day in court. Justice should not change because you wear stars on your shoulder boards.
And being censured or forced to retire is not the same thing as spending 40 months in prison.
Let the investigation continue. If admirals are accused of bribery or conspiracy, charge them – just like you charged Lt Malaki, PO Layug and others – and let them defend their actions in court. Justice should be blind; the gleam of those admiral stars doesn’t matter.
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