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Top Navy officers deny accepting prostitutes from ‘Fat Leonard’ defense contractor

Five high-ranking Navy officials defended themselves in a yearslong bribery case this week against accusations of trading military secrets for sex parties with prostitutes.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — An intelligence officer who “tagged along with his friends” to lascivious parties held by Navy defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis didn’t go to the soirees “because of the women at these parties,” his defense attorney told a federal jury Thursday.

He went because he was the life of the party.

“He was invited to these dinners and parties because he was fun to be around. That is not bribery and that is not conspiracy,” attorney Ivy Wang said during her opening argument defending U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless against bribery and conspiracy charges he faces in the Southern District of California.

She added: “This is not a trial of ethics or morals. You are not here to judge whether anyone was a good person, you are here to find whether a federal crime was committed. There is no evidence he did anything for Leonard Francis because of women at these parties.”

The women in question were prostitutes hired by Francis to entertain top Navy officials whose favor he was trying to buy to secure lucrative port husbanding contracts for the Seventh Fleet, according to a 2017 indictment charging Loveless and eight other men.

Francis is expected to be the government’s star witness in what could be a four-month trial for Loveless and Capts. David Newland, James Dolan and David Lausman, and Cmdr. Mario Herrera.

Four others charged have already pleaded guilty.

Wang did not confirm nor deny allegations Loveless accepted prostitutes paid for by Francis.

Neither did Herrera's attorney Michael Crowley. Prosecutors claim Herrera got the nickname “Choke” due to “actions” he took with prostitutes paid for by Francis.

Attorneys for the rest of the defendants did deny claims their clients were entertained by prostitutes during the second day of opening statements Thursday.

Dolan’s attorney Todd Burns said his client never accepted hotel rooms or prostitutes paid for by Francis. Lausman’s attorney Robert Boyce also denied the allegation in a short statement Thursday.

“The incident of prostitution involving Lausman is simply false. The evidence will show it is not true,” Boyce said.

On Wednesday, when he gave his opening statement defending Newland, attorney Joseph Mancano said accusations regarding Newland and prostitutes were also untrue.

“He never demanded them, he was never with them, no one saw Dave Newland with a prostitute and the government ignored witnesses who told them it didn’t happen,” Mancano said, noting the only person making the claim against his client is Francis.

“Francis has a pattern of accusing male and female Naval officers of sexual misconduct without substantiation,” Mancano added.

Instead, during the first week of trial defense attorneys focused on what they say their clients did do: have distinguished Navy careers spanning decades.

The men only interacted with Francis — who had secured most of the Seventh Fleet’s port services contracts due to his ability to “get the job done” — because they were required to in the performance of their job duties, according to their attorneys.

“What the government has done is put a sinister spin on every single work interaction David Lausman had with Leonard Francis and GDMA [Glen Defense Marine Asia, Francis' company],” Boyce told the 12 jurors and six alternates.

“GDMA was the best performing husbanding agent at the time,” Boyce added. “Francis could get diplomatic clearances — he was a problem solver. If you had a sailor in jail, he would get him or her out of jail, avoiding an international incident. Francis made everything happen for the Navy and the Navy knew it. The Navy trusted Leonard Francis, the Navy treated him as a partner.”

Prosecutors expect to call their first witness in the government’s case Monday morning.

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