Trump pardons former Groton sailor in submarine photos case

President Donald Trump has pardoned a former Groton sailor who spent a year in prison for taking photos in classified areas of a nuclear attack submarine, the White House announced Friday.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, 31, who now lives in Arlington, Vt., and said he was appreciative of his service, according to the Associated Press.

Saucier’s wife, Sadie, answered the phone at their home in Arlington on Friday afternoon. The White House called Saucier’s attorney Ronald Daigle on Friday to inform him of the president’s decision, she said. Her husband, who works as a trash collector, left the house at 4 a.m., and didn’t find out about the news until she texted him later in the day.

“He was like, 'What,' with a big exclamation point. I don’t think he believes it,” she said.

“I was pretty surprised by it,” Kristian Saucier said by phone Friday night. “It caught us off guard. We’ve gotten so much bad news over the past two years. This is the first real piece of good news.”

He said Trump called him at home about 6 p.m. Friday. “He basically said that he believes my family and I deserve to get our lives back and that’s what he was trying to do by issuing the pardon,” Saucier said, adding that he told the president that he was “very thankful” for his decision.

Saucier, who is working for a local waste management company near where he lives, said “all I was asking for is a second chance. That’s what he’s done.”

In May 2016 Saucier was convicted of one count of unauthorized retention of national defense information, a felony, and received an "other-than-honorable" discharge from the Navy. He was sentenced to a year in prison at Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens in western Massachusetts. He got out of prison on Sept. 6, 2017.

The investigation into Saucier started in March 2012, when his cellphone was found at a waste transfer station in Hampton, Conn. After he was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in July 2012, he destroyed a laptop computer, a personal camera and the camera's memory card, according to the government.

Saucier’s case received national attention due to arguments made by Saucier and his attorneys that he was treated more harshly than others in higher positions who’ve mishandled classified information, such as former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server.

Saucier's mom, Kathleen, said that shortly after Trump was elected president she met with a member of his campaign team who introduced her to then national security advisor Michael Flynn. She met with Flynn in Trump Tower in November 2017 and he recommended then that her son submit a pardon request through the Department of Justice.

President Trump, during an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, was asked if he'd consider pardoning Saucier.

"We're looking at a few of them. And by the way, if another event didn't happen, I would look at him. How can you have somebody else get away with such a tremendous amount and then this person who takes a picture of his desk on an old submarine — look, if China or Russia wanted information on that submarine, they've had it for many years. That I can tell you," Trump told Hannity at the time.

Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army attorney and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's School of Law in Texas, who submitted petitions on Jan. 9, 2017, for a presidential pardon and for clemency on behalf of Saucier, told The Day in a January 2017 interview that he had asked Hannity to ask Trump about the case on his show.

Last year, the Department of Justice denied Saucier's request for a presidential pardon. A new request was submitted by Daigle, Saucier's current lawyer.

In an interview with The Day about a month after getting out of prison, Saucier said he was speaking out about his case to raise awareness of what he saw as a double standard between the handling of his case and those of more high-profile officials such as Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus.

“We were basically saying, look here's this guy is who is accepting responsibility for a mistake he made when he was a young kid, who went on to serve honorably in the military,” Saucier told The Day in October 2017.

Saucier was a machinist's mate aboard the USS Alexandria when on at least three different occasions in 2009 he used his cellphone camera to take pictures of various technical components of the submarine's nuclear propulsion system while it was docked at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

“That’s the job that I did. I worked in the engine room. I was a mechanic. So I took pictures of the places that I worked because I was really proud of them,” Saucier told The Day.

The government, which sought 63 months of prison time in the case, argued that the photographs contained information that was sought by U.S. adversaries and would shrink the country’s military advantage.

During Saucier's sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Richards, a prosecutor for the case, said the photographs documented the submarine's entire propulsion system. "The technology that's documented in these photographs is, quite literally, an engineering and a scientific wonder," she said.

j.bergman@theday.com 

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