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Military

Sailor sentenced to 18 years in prison for espionage

The doors into the courthouse on Naval Base San Diego are shown in this undated photo.
Mike Damron
/
KPBS
The doors into the courthouse on Naval Base San Diego are shown in this undated photo.

A Navy chief convicted of selling military secrets was given a dishonorable discharge and sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday at a Naval Base San Diego courtroom.

Chief Fire Controlman Bryce Pedicini was convicted on several felony counts of espionage, and attempted espionage, following a seven-day trial in April.

Pedicini told the judge in an unsworn statement Tuesday he knew the choices he made were "foolish and wrong." He said he never meant to harm the country he served.

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Prosecutors argued the chief was "highly intelligent" and knew what he was doing was wrong. But he tried to "cash in on his (security) clearance" anyway.

During the trial prosecutors alleged in 2022 Pedicini met a woman on Facebook when she sent him a direct message. She said she was a researcher from Japan and offered to pay Pedicini for a series of papers on U.S. Navy strategy and capabilities.

Pedicini, who at the time was in debt and had a negative bank balance, agreed, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the woman was in fact an intelligence agent of a foreign government. They did not say what country's intelligence agency she served. Parts of the trial and the sentencing hearing were closed to the public to discuss classified information.

As a fire controlman, specializing on the AEGIS missile system, Pedicini held a security clearance and had access to classified information.

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He was paid $1,000 per research paper, prosecutors said, for a total payment of $8,000.

In 2023 Pedicini was sent to the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins in Japan, where he offered the woman more classified information in exchange for more money.

He brought his cell phone into a classified work area and took pictures of the screen of a classified network computer. The photo was to serve as a menu for the agent to pick and choose which classified documents they wanted.

When Pedicini went to upload that photo for the agent, he was arrested.

He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of bringing his phone into that classified space before his trial in April.

His convictions on eight specifications of espionage and attempted espionage each earned sentences of more than 10 years. His longest sentence, 18 years, was for his attempt to sell classified information from the Higgins' computer network.

The judge, Cmdr. Andrea Lockhart, ordered Pedicini to serve his sentences concurrently. Prosecutors had asked Tuesday for the chief to get 52 years by stacking the sentences consecutively.

The defense asked Tuesday for no more than 18 months in prison.