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U.S. sailor gets 18 years for delivering classified documents while in Japan

Chief Petty Officer had been assigned to guideded-missile destroyer USS Higgins

May 30 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy sailor has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on espionage charges, federal officials announced Thursday.

Former Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini had been accused of delivering classified national defense information on behalf of a foreign government official while working for the U.S. Navy while in Japan. He was convicted on charges of attempted espionage and failure to follow a lawful order, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

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He had been assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins in Japan when he was taken into custody last year.

In addition to his prison term, Pedicini also was given a dishonorable discharge, the Navy said.

Pedicini delivered classified and national defense information for a foreign government official between November 2022 and May 2023, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

While the Navy said Pedicini released the documents while working for the service branch in Japan, it did not specifically say what country to which he released them.

The service said he engaged with the foreign official "under the guise of writing research papers." The Navy said this tactic was increasingly popular by U.S. adversaries to obtain documents, classified and otherwise.

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NCIS Director Omar Lopez said the incident should not be seen as a reflection on the security of U.S. classified information and added that the sentence holds Pedicini accountable to the betrayal of both his country and his fellow service members.

"The criminal act by this lone individual should not diminish the incredible sacrifices made by our service members and their families on a daily basis to protect our nation," Lopez said.

Pedicini had been accused of smuggling photos of a computer designed for classified information to a foreign official while he was in Yokosuka, Japan, last spring, according to charging documents.

While the Navy did not disclose the nature of the documents, officials said Pedecini had reason to believe their release would be harmful to the U.S.

In earlier statements, the Navy said Pedecini had engaged with the foreign government representative under the guise of research papers, but never revealed the country he is said to have released the documents to.

Pedicini had been stationed on multiple naval ships and received multiple awards during his career. He joined the Navy in 2009.

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