Leonard Glenn Francis, the protection contractor behind the worst bribery and corruption scandal in U.S. Navy historical past, was purported to have a brand new legal professional when he confirmed as much as court docket Thursday, which might have allowed a choose to schedule his lengthy awaited sentencing.
As an alternative, the person often known as ” Fats Leonard,” who was returned to San Diego earlier this 12 months after fleeing home arrest in 2022 after which spending some 15 months in a Venezuelan jail, requested for 60 extra days to discover a lawyer.
The request appeared to frustrate each federal prosecutors and U.S. District Decide Janis Sammartino, who had already given Francis greater than a month to discover a new lawyer.
“We now have to maneuver this ahead,” Assistant U.S. Legal professional Fred Sheppard advised the choose.
“The time has come to … resolve this matter,” she stated. She gave Francis one other 45 days to seek out an legal professional, telling him that at his subsequent listening to in March, she desires to set a sentencing date.
Francis’ unsettled legal professional scenario appears to be a direct results of his flight from justice almost 18 months in the past. Just a few weeks after he fled the nation, one in every of his protection attorneys requested for his agency to be withdrawn “primarily based on an irreparable breakdown within the attorney-client relationship.”
That agency, Warren & Burstein, continues to be representing Francis in the intervening time however lately renewed its withdrawal request.
The Malaysian-born Francis was as soon as a robust navy contractor in southeast Asia. He was arrested in 2013 in San Diego and pleaded responsible in 2015 to federal corruption fees associated to his wide-ranging bribery scheme that bilked the U.S. authorities of at the very least $35 million. Francis spent years as a cooperating witness for the U.S. authorities within the persevering with investigation and prosecution of the Navy officers he had bribed.
In 2018, he was granted pre-sentence launch resulting from his poor well being, finally shifting into an opulent Carmel Valley-area rental dwelling. On Sept. 4, 2022, he lower off his GPS ankle monitor and fled, touring from Mexico to Cuba to Venezuela whereas attempting to make it to Russia. However he was captured by Interpol in Venezuela, the place he then spent about 15 months in custody till he was included in a prisoner swap in December.
Final month, when Francis made his first look again in a San Diego court docket in a number of years, protection legal professional Jeremy Warren, who had helped characterize Francis for years, indicated his agency nonetheless supposed to withdraw. “We’re not able to advocate” for Francis, Warren advised the choose on the time. He stated he would supply particulars in a sealed listening to if she wanted additional rationalization of the agency’s reasoning.
Francis advised the choose Thursday that he “wasn’t in the appropriate mind-set” throughout his January listening to as a result of he “had simply arrived from Florida.”
He stated that within the time since then, whereas in custody on the federal jail in downtown, he is had problem contacting his household and his legal professional in Singapore. That, he stated, was why he was requesting 60 extra days.
“My case is over a decade outdated,” Francis stated, including that it is a “humongous” case and thus not straightforward to discover a new legal professional.
Sammartino requested Warren to assist facilitate communication between Francis and his legal professional in Singapore to make sure he can shortly receive new native counsel.
Sheppard, the prosecutor, objected final month to the choose’s choice to let Warren and his agency withdraw from the case. He argued on the time that discovering Francis a brand new protection crew would trigger a prolonged delay.
He made the same objection Thursday.
Prosecutors have nonetheless not stated whether or not they are going to cost Francis with new crimes associated to him absconding. Sheppard stated final month that the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace is “contemplating extra fees” — probably contempt of court docket — however would wait to file such fees till after he is sentenced within the bribery and fraud scheme.
This story initially appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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